The emotional barometer of Swiss solo sailor Bernard Stamm continues to lurch from fair to storm in the Vendée Globe singlehanded round the world race. At just over 1,000 miles from Cape Horn he was told that the rules jury was prepared to reconsider his disqualification for receiving outside assistance.
Then, overnight, he hit a maritime UFO, an unidentified floating object, which smashed the port generator, whose repair in New Zealand had led to his earlier problems. He has a starboard generator which continues to function, but producing only enough power to run a few essentials, meaning he has to shut everything else down, including communications with his shore team in Europe.
The jury had not only, among others, received pleas from every one of Stamm’s 12 remaining rivals to reconsider its decision but had also received an account of what happened in the Auckland Islands from Professor Marine Khoromov, who was aboard the Russian science research ship alongside which Stamm had moored when making his first attempt to repair his hydrogenerators.
“This testimony offers a significant new fact,” said the jury announcing that it will reopen the case, but is will also have to give some sort of permission to Stamm, which would be on safety grounds, to take on extra diesel to run his main generator, possibly in either Ushuaia or the Falklands, if he is to complete the race in Les Sables d’Olonne.
In fourth place, Britain’s Alex Thomson, already past Cape Horn, is in the same fuel shortage bind, and continues to have hydrogenerator problems, but he has not yet reported any request to take on extra fuel.
Ahead of him François Gabart has edged out to a 40-plus-mile lead over Armel le Cléac’h as third-placed Jean-Pierre Dick had closed to 225 miles behind the leading pair, who are now 650 miles north of the Falkland Islands with 5,500 miles to go and two days inside the record schedule of 84 days set in 2008 by Michel Desjoyeaux.