Vendée Globe Skipper Awaits Rescue

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French Vendée Globe competitor Kito de Pavant is currently awaiting rescue after his IMOCA 60 Bastide Otio struck an unidentified floating object that destroyed his keel housing, ripped off his aft keel mountings and left the appendage supported by only its hydraulic ram.

De Pavant, who at the time of the collision was in 10th place in the solo round-the-world race and some 120 miles north of the Crozet Islands in the southern Indian Ocean, also reported his boat has experienced “a significant ingress of water.” Although the video above is in French, de Pavant’s situation and the extent of the damage to his boat are readily apparent starting at about 00:30.

Race organizers and the MRCC rescue coordination center have dispatched the 360ft Marion Dufresne research and supply vessel, which supplies the remote French archipelagos of Crozet, the Kerguelen, Saint Paul and Amsterdam islands, to pick de Pavant up.

The Marion Dufresne was initially reported to be around 110 nautical miles away and had an ETA in the area during the early part of this evening with a plan to evacuate the skipper by rigid inflatable boat when daylight occurs around 0200hrs UTC.

Alain Gautier, the Vendée Globe Safety Director, explained: “We're hoping they will arrive at around 1700 UTC, but by then it will be dark there, so it is down to the commanding officer of the ship to decide what sort of operation to carry out. They are likely to want to wait until day breaks at around 0100 UTC to launch a RIB to recover Kito. It will all depend on the conditions. We can imagine that the Marion Dufresne will position herself windward of Kito to try to calm down the seas. But she's not that big a boat, so we don't know if that will be enough to ensure a safe operation. Sunrise is at around 0130 UTC, but they may wait a while for the weather to ease. Already the winds will not be as strong during the night. Our goal is to get Kito aboard the Marion Dufresne. It will be up to Kito's team to deal with the boat, but that's not going to be easy in that zone. Meanwhile, he has called us when he finds the time. After the shock this morning and the obvious disappointment, we can see that he is more in control of the situation now.”

De Pavant, 55 years old, had battled through more than 48 hours of strong winds and big seas and was racing with a double reefed main making around 16kts in 40kts of wind and 24 to 36ft seas. The popular skipper has been forced to retire from two previous Vendée Globe races, in 2008-9 when he was dismasted 18 hours after the start and in 2012-13 when he retired into Cascais after a collision with a trawler.

In the previous editions, de Pavant's target was to win the Vendée Globe or at least to finish on the podium. However, prior to the start of the current race he had stated several times that his primary objective this time around was just to achieve a finish. He had therefore been sailing a mature, solid race since the start, taking no risks, but alas, to no avail.

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