Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Dismasting rules Artemis out of Transat Jacques Vabre

[Source: Artemis Ocean Racing] Young British pair devastated by blow just four days into race.

Artemis Ocean Racing, the boat sponsored by leading UK investment company Artemis Investment Management, was this afternoon (Tuesday) dismasted off the coast of Spain on Day Four of the Transat Jacques Vabre race from Le Havre to Bahia in Brazil.

The British IMOCA Open 60, skippered by Jonny Malbon and Graham Tourell, was sailing in 35 knots of breeze when the incident occurred at around 1420 GMT. The cause of the dismasting is not yet known. Both skippers were on deck at the time.

Malbon, taking part in his first Transat Jacques Vabre, said he and Tourell were safe but shattered by the dismasting.

"We were absolutely mortified," said Malbon, 33, from the stricken boat. "We are very upset, not just for us but everyone who's been involved in getting us to the start line. The team has worked so hard to get the boat in such great shape and this race has been such a big focus for us for the past year. It's really heart-breaking."

Malbon said that while conditions had got worse during the course of the day and the wind has strengthened to 35 knots, the boat was performing well in the rough seas.

"We had the masthead spinnaker and the full mainsail up this morning but knew that the wind was forecast to increase, so we put one reef in the mainsail and changed to the jib. We had been pushing the boat hard to try and make ground with the front group but we weren't pushing too hard. You wouldn't expect this to happen in these conditions, but it always happens when you least expect it."

Malbon described the moment when the 4,340 mile race for him and Tourell was over, after just 575 miles:

"We surfed down a wave, a pretty steep one, and then hit this wall of water in front of us. The boat literally came to a standstill and the rig just fell forwards towards the bow of the boat.

"We tried to save the boom and the bottom section of the mast but to save the hull, we had to cut them free and throw everything over the side - the rig, the boom and the sails."

Artemis was in 10th position in a fleet of 17, 100 miles off the coast of Vigo (Spain) when the dismasting happened and trying hard to close the gap on the leading boat, Safran, 130 miles ahead.

With Malbon due to take part in the 2008 Vendee Globe round the world race starting in November, the Transat Jacques Vabre, and a solo trip back from Brazil later this month, was seen as a crucial part of his preparation for next year's blue ribbon race.

"We are all devastated by the news," said Mark Tyndall, CEO of Artemis Investment Management. "This race meant so much to the boys and they and the rest of the team have worked so hard in the past few months. They were very confident they could surprise a few people in this race and put some markers down ahead of next year's Vendee Globe campaign. We are just relieved that they are both safe."

Malbon and Tourell are currently off the coast of north west Spain, waiting for the rescue boat, which is likely to be with them in the next 12 hours.



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