Surviving a death roll but losing his mast in the process, the solo French sailor Jean-Pierre Dick crashed out of The Transat race from Plymouth to Boston at the weekend when lying a close second. Near storm-force winds of over 55 knots and waves of up 25 feet contributed to the capsize but, apart from being shaken up, he was uninjured.
Dick's 90-foot carbon-fibre mast broke into three bits and the boom which holds the mainsail snapped after the 60-foot Virbac suffered a 360-degree roll. Dick later reported there was no major structural damage but it was a blow to his campaign to do the non-stop round-the-world Vendée Globe in November.
Yesterday a rescue operation was being co-ordinated involving a North Sea coaster, the Hatherleigh. Dick is heading back to Ireland under a makeshift jury rig and any sail he can hoist, supplemented by the use of the engine.
Dick's earlier attempt to qualify, in a special race back across the Atlantic after the double-handed Transat Jacques Vabre at the end of last year, ended as abruptly when he also lost his mast. He can apply for special dispensation if he can find the time and the budget to make the necessary repairs. "Fortunately I wasn't on deck or I would not be here to tell about it," he said. "The only possible explanation is an enormous rogue wave."
The incident left a hectic 24 hours of musical chairs at the head of the Open 60 monohull fleet. Britain's Mike Golding in his new Ecover temporarily regained the lead only to see the New Zealander Mike Sanderson take over. That proved short-lived as, with just over 1,400 of the 2,800 miles to go, Bernard Stamm in Armor Lux and Vincent Riou in PRB swooped down from a more northerly position to take first and second.
Golding said: "The reality of these conditions is to stay intact and safe. I was genuinely afraid to tack." Sanderson, making his debut in solo ocean racing, is driving his boat hard, especially as damage to wind instruments meant autopilots were not working and at one stage he had to hand steer for nearly eight hours. "Conditions out here were absolutely horrendous and I am firmly in the exhausted basket," he added.
With less than 800 miles to go and on schedule to set a new record, Michel Desjoyeaux in Géant had a near-100-mile lead in the 60-foot multihull class over Thomas Coville in Sodebo as Franck Cammas pushed Groupama up to third.
A sixth in the 10th and final race was enough to give Peter de Ridder of The Netherlands the Mumm 30 European championship at the Royal Southern Yacht Club on the Solent.