Thursday, November 04, 2010

Oman Air Majan skipper Sidney Gavignet talks about his incident

[Source: Route du Rhum - La Banque Postale] We were going fast upwind TWA about 70 degrees in a sea state which was not bad. I could not say it was bad. It was just our speed was difficult, between 18 and 22 knots, that was making life a bit difficult on board. I had Jib 2 and reef 2, my J3 job was ready. I was waiting because the wind was due to increase a little bit. But I thought it was still safe handling.

It was daylight, I was well rested and fed and so everything was fine, there was nothing damaged on the boat at that time. So far it was good race from that point of view.

After a jump over wave, a little harder than others, I heard a crack and thought it was the daggerboard, even if the board was higher than deck level which is quite high up. I jumped up and saw that the front leeward cross-beam was broken probably one metre away from the float. It was very, very quick, in probably 2-3 seconds I was easing the traveller. The float came out of the cross beam. I think it was still linked at that time with the aft cross beam, the float and the aft cross beam, but because the front was not linked to the boat, the boat just capsized almost and the mast at the horizontal and the platform was at the vertical. So I was pretty disorientated, but the damage was done.

My first concern was to find my survival suit, life raft and grab bag. And I found that very quick. I realised there was no massive panic because I realised very quickly that the boat would stay afloat and no water would come in the boat, because that was my first concern. So I put the survival suit on and called the race director.

I told the race director I was going to set off my EPIRB because I was needing saved.

When your boat breaks you realise it is vey serious. Talking about my life, I realised very quickly that I had the good reflex to look for all the survival suit and stuff like that. The safety debrief we had in Saint Malo was still fresh in my mind. And no I don’t think I was ever scared for my life. I felt I was in control of that.

I knew the boat was totally broken. At the beginning I did not want to go out of the companionway too much because there were cables moving around the exit. The shrouds were just in front of the door and I wanted to look at the situation a bit more before going outside. I was thinking about cutting the rig and letting go of the mast which could have been a good solution but to do that you need to cut many, many cables and some were attached to the free float which was separate from the boat. And on the leeward float, free one, was too dangerous.

I managed to give CROSS my position and not long after that I got a call from the Portuguese rescue organisation asking if I was ready to leave the boat.

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