On Wednesday 4th of May, shortly after midnight and whilst sailing off Cape Finisterre in 25 to 30 knots of northeasterly wind and in relatively manageable seas, Sebastian Josse suffered a violent broach. During this manoeuvre, the mainsail, the key sail and veritable boat engine at 160 m², was seriously damaged and rendered unusable. The sailor and the boat are not at risk, however racing competitively is no longer possible. It is for this reason that upon consultation with the boat owners Ariane and Benjamin de Rothschild and his shore crew, that Sebastien Josse has decided to retire from racing on the Transat bakerly and head for Vigo in Galicia where he will be joined by members of the Gitana Team.
Leaving Plymouth on Monday, 2 May at 15:30, Sebastien Josse was racing well and was able to exploit the full potential of his latest generation foiling boat to take the lead twice in the IMOCA fleet ahead of Vincent Riou (PRB) and Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII). The pace was set and the leading three made the most of wonderful weather conditions on the initial part of the transat and make fast progress towards Cape Finisterre. It is at this point, well known for frequently having strong winds and rough seas, that the incident took place.
When joined by the shore crew, Sebastien Josse struggled to hide both his disappointment at having to abandon this wonderful transatlantic race and his frustration at not being able to continue the race he had been having since the start with both Vincent Riou and Armel Le Cléac’h.
“Sail battens and the top of the main sail have broken following a violent broach as a result of the tiller being released suddenly. Despite all of the precautions it is something that can happen at these key pressure points. It all happened so quickly in just 10 seconds perhaps. There is no major damage but there is no turning back. Without a mainsail it is impossible to race and undeniably there is disappointment. It is always quite complicated when things come to an end so suddenly. I was right in the race, sailing in contact with Vincent and Armel.
“The boat was really well prepared and was really showing just what she is capable of… It is even harder because I think the first part which is the toughest bit was already behind us. We had strong wind all afternoon, over 30 knots, and things were calming down progressively and were due to calm even more so over the following three hours. I stowed everything away and am now making headway to Vigo which is roughly 80 miles away. Without a mainsail it is hard to progress more than 8 to 10 kn so I should not get there until tomorrow afternoon,” explains the Gitana Team skipper.
Abandoning after just 30 hours of racing whilst fighting it out in the lead… Sadly appears to be a repeat of six months ago. The similarities end here though. On the Transat Jacques Vabre, the latest Gitana boat had just been launched two months earlier (in August) and had not been fully prepared having been only launched so recently. The team, led by Cyril Dardashti went straight to work on getting the boat prepared for the Sebastien Josse to be able to set off optimal conditions once again. The hard work paid off since the solo sailor would go on to race on the return Transat from St Bath to Lorient and so gain the all important qualification for for the Vendée Globe.
Following optimisation work over the course of the winter, the Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild was finally ready to show what it could do. It is however the breakage tha puts a stop, something inevitable in what is becoming a more and more mechanical sport on offshore racing and with the technological advances on these kinds of boats.
Like last November, true to the sailor and Gitana Team, the spirits will not be dampened and give up. The objective is to repair the damaged sail as swiftly as possible so that Sebastien can set off to sea for North America. The Transat bakerly may now be behind him but he has the New York – Vendée (Sables d'Olonne) race ahead. He will maintain his racing schedule for 2016. The transatlantic race from West to East sets off on the 29th of May.