Groupe Bel Dismasted

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Kito de Pavant retraces the circumstances leading to the dismasting

© Jacques Vapillon / Sea&Co / Europa Warm Up
In the early morning, as he passed the race’s first turning mark at the Island of Santa Maria in the Azores in 5th position of the Europa Warm’Up, and was beginning a long surfing tack towards Fastnet (Ireland), the skipper, Kito de Pavant heard a crack just before 13:00. Groupe Bel’s mast had broken in two as the yacht was sailing in a south-southwesterly 20-25 knot wind under mainsail with a single reef and a gennaker. At 12:56, the skipper’s technical team informed the race management and made it clear that Kito was fine, that he was not injured and that he had set a course towards the harbor of Ponta Delgada, located on Sao Miguel Island, 50 miles from Groupe Bel at the time of the damage. The upper part of the mast remained attached and the skipper took the necessary measures to make the yacht safe. It has not suffered any other damage. Naturally disappointed, Kito’s priority is to remain focused on getting the boat to shelter as quickly as possible.

Spoken to on the radio this afternoon, Groupe Bel’s skipper retraces the dismasting and the sailing conditions at the time: “I was sailing in a 20-25 south westerly under gennaker, with one reef in the mainsail. The yacht was making good headway and on automatic pilot her seakeeping was rather good. Suddenly, she accelerated and I heard a crack. The mast immediately broke in two, just above the hounds (top rigging) of the ORC forestay. This meant that I no longer had a forward sail and that the mast was holding only by the lower shrouds and the stay to the fore.

I made the yacht safe and observed that, apart from the mast, there was no other damage. The mainsail was still hanging from the mast and Groupe Bel was still being driven forward at low speed. I turned on the engine to set her in the right direction since she cannot be maneuvered. I still have roughly 30 liters of fuel, which is about six hours of autonomy. My technical team and the race management are currently looking into a way of supplying me with fuel or towing me the last few miles.

A completely new race is now beginning. I am currently progressing to the north of Sao Miguel Island to find shelter from the wind and sea. I am currently heading west at a speed of 4/5 knots. The situation seems to be under control although not very comfortable.

For once, we were about to race downwind, but it stops here for me. I am inevitably annoyed and angry, but it could have been much worse. There is no damage to the boat, or the man sailing her. My priority is to bring the yacht back safe and sound and to get her back to Port Camargue as quickly as possible.

I hope that the other contenders do not have any problems and that they will continue this fine battle. Send them all a hello from me!”

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