After arriving in Ushuaia on Wednesday evening Kito de Pavant and Sébastien Audigane and their team completed the full assessment of Groupe Bel’s keel damage. The appendage itself and surrounding areas inside the hull are too damaged to allow any safe chance to repair them on site and resume racing.
And so the duo has decided to abandon the Barcelona World Race and officially informed the race management this Friday at 1736hrs UTC.
The Groupe Bel Team is now organizing the return of the IMOCA Open 60 to Europe by cargo ship.
“Our round-the-world ends at the far end of the world”, said De Pavant, “an unfortunate end after two months of racing, three oceans crossed and the rounding of three capes. Stopping the race is obviously as heartbreaking for us sailors, as it is for those who share their adventures every day through what they have written and their pictures. This difficult decision was made with the support of Bel Group, which puts the safety of its men first.
The great adventure since Barcelona
The duo’s resolution and motivation has held out to the end. They were in third position before their required 48-hour stopover in Wellington to repair their sails (gennaker and medium spinnaker), Groupe Bel then had to deal with the wrath of Atu a tropical low which the emerged from in good shape leaving Estrella Damm astern.
Just under 300 miles from Cape Horn, Groupe Bel was up to fifth place with the serious ambition of giving her all in the Atlantic battle. Only on Monday afternoon, abnormal noises coming from the keel-head alerted the dup, who noticed that it was moving forward and backward in a worrying manner.
The two following days were particularly stressful as they tried to get to Ushuaia harbor as quickly as possible, since the keel threatened to come away from the hull at any moment. Rounding Cape Horn on Tuesday, was nonetheless a poor but real consolation for the sailors, punctuating the effective crossing of three of the world’s oceans.
Bringing Groupe Bel back from Ushuaia
In Ushuaia, everything has been organized to take Groupe Bel out of the water. This operation could be carried out tomorrow during the day if the weather should permit (note that it was snowing in Ushuaia this morning). It is now a question of finding a cargo ship as quickly as possible to bring the boat back to Europe.
This is a complicated operation from the southernmost town in the world! Kito de Pavant’s aim is to get Groupe Bel back sailing as quickly as possible and to continue the IMOCA season with the European Pro Tour with crew in sight, which will leave from Istanbul on the 3rd of July.
Kito de Pavant: “This is a difficult decision to make. We are leaving most of the Barcelona World Race course behind us. Obviously, it is frustrating, since all that was left was the Atlantic and we had hopes of really continuing the fight to win the podium. However, we are also happy to be here, safe and sound. This whole story could have turned nasty! What’s important now is to find a cargo ship quickly to return the boat to Europe, so that she can be ready for the start of the European Pro Tour in Instanbul on 3 July.
Sébastien Audigane: “It’s not easy to abandon a race, and particularly a round-the-world! Sailing is a mechanical sport, so this kind of damage does happen. It’s part of our job. The main thing is that we are now safe! Nearly 70 days at sea, is no small thing, particularly after crossing 3 oceans. This Barcelona World Race with Kito was a magnificent experience for me. Despite these last difficult days, there is only one thing I want to do. I want to set off again and take part in the Vendée Globe. I must be a bit crazy! For the moment, we are still in Ushuaia so I can’t plan towards the future, but there are many other races I’m interested in for the rest of the season.”