Fellow sailor reaches injured Elies

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A fellow competitor came to the assistance today of injured Vendée Globe sailor Yann Elies, hurling water and medicine aboard his yacht.

Marc Guillemot told France's RTL radio that he sailed past Elies' stern and talked to him.

Elies fractured his leg while working on deck. The Australian Navy has sent a frigate, HMAS Arunta, to rescue the French sailor. It left Fremantle on Australia's west coast early Friday and is expected to reach the yacht Generali on Sunday, although rough weather and bad seas could slow the expected 800-mile (1,300-kilometer) trip.

Guillemot, skippering Safran, said conditions were rough, with 8-meter (26-foot) waves.

"There are a lot of waves and wind. I passed very close to his stern and threw a bottle of water and some medicines, aiming for inside his cabin so he could catch them without moving," Guillemot said.

"The conditions are difficult, knowing there's a guy suffering next to you is really tough," he said. "I was able to speak to him and that was very comforting for him."

The Australian frigate responded to calls from Australian Search and Rescue, which was contacted by race organizers late Thursday, less than seven hours before Arunta set sail. The ship is carrying a doctor and has a helicopter.

"Elies was working at the bow, leaning on the pulpit, as he was preparing a sail, when his 60-foot boat, Generali, came to a sudden halt slamming into a wave," a statement on the race Web site said.

"The sailor felt a sudden acute pain. He collapsed on the foredeck and had to crawl back inside his boat to contact his team."

The race doctor, Jean-Yves Chauve, said Elies had a suspected broken femur.

Elies was resting in his bunk at the chart table, but with the violent motion of the boat, has so far been unable to reach his medicine kit for painkillers.

"Not surprisingly he can't find the nerve to move a few meters across the cabin sole (floor), which is obviously being jolted about every which way by the sea state. However, he desperately needs to get to the medication both physically and mentally now as he's in so much pain," race organizers said.

The Vendee, a single-handed race for men and women without any stopovers, set off from Les Sables d'Olonne on Nov. 9.

Thirty Open 60 race boats — high-tech carbon-fiber yachts built to be fast yet tough — began the race, but more than a third of the fleet has been forced to retire with less than half the race distance covered.

The Vendee takes the fleet around the three great capes — the Cape of Good Hope, Cape Leeuwin and Cape Horn — marking the southern tips of Africa, Australia and America.