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Vendée Globe turns demolition derby as fifth starter retires


The demolition derby aspect of the Vendée Globe round the world race continued to dominate coverage on Sunday as the fifth of the 20 starters limped off the racecourse and a sixth sought to fix a problem which could also force him to retire.

The 24,400-mile race is only a week old as Jérémie Beyou heads for the Cape Verde Islands to fix what sounds like a major hydraulics problem controlling the keel of his Open 60 Maitre Coq.

It will not be easy, his boat is also taking water, and the race rules forbid any outside assistance. At the same time Poland’s Zbigniew Gutkowski was seeking shelter to free a sail wrapped around the top of the mast of Energa.

More difficult may be the problem of fixing the cause. His self-steering mechanism is faulty and he may not wish to take on the Southern Ocean, though he is a long way from taking that decision without a fully functional autopilot. “Going into the Southern Ocean without an autopilot is a completely stupid idea,” said Gutkowski.

Beyou has not given up hope and if he can centre and securely fix the keel and “there’s a tiny little chance to go on, we’ll stay in the race.”

Explaining why the IMOCA 60-foot boats used in the race are so much more prone to keel and keel hydraulics problems than the Volvo Open 70s, British designer Merfyn Owen explained that the Open 60 keels were all designed individually for each boat whereas there has been a much tougher design rule for the Volvo boats – and next time round starting 2014 they will all be exactly the same. “The Volvo boats have much more of a belt and braces approach,” he said.

Less easy to understand is the amount of time being taken by the jury which deliberates on any rule infringements in the VG. Monday sees seven days since two protests against a total of nine boats for infringing traffic separation lanes around Cape Finisterre, including one against Britain’s Mike Golding.

Nor has there been any clear explanation about the reason for such a lengthy delay either from the jury, headed by France’s Bernard Bonneau, or the race committee, headed by Denis Horeau and which itself submitted a protest against eight competitors.

Armel l Cleac’h continues to lead the remaining 14, plus two wounded, as the fleet approaches the Doldrums.Second is the early leader, François Gabart. Britain’s Alex Thomson is sixth and Mike Golding ninth.