Artemis Transat - Whale strike knocks out Fonica

Foncia damaged in whale collision Photo: Michel Desjoyeaux / Foncia - The Artemis Transat
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Michel Desjoyeaux, skipper of the Foncia IMOCA monohull, was forced to retire from the Artemis Transat following a collision with a whale.

The boat was hit in her front section, and around the starboard daggerboard area, and Michel Desjoyeaux is concerned about the state of the lower part of the daggerboard casing. The skipper is unhurt, the boat is still safe and seaworthy. In order not to take any risks neither for the skipper nor for the boat, in agreement with the sponsor Foncia, decision has been taken to retire from the race. Return to his Brittany base should be reasonably fast - a little more than 1000 miles to go.

Joined by satellite telephone, the skipper declared:

'About two hours ago, I was upwind doing 10 to 11 knots, I was in the boat and I heard a crack. I felt the starboard daggerboard hit something - it's probably broken. I can't get it up more than 1.5 metres. I hope there won't be a big leak. I don't see any interest in pursuing the race with a boat which is not competitive anymore, it makes more sense to head home to Brittany, which should take me about four days. It's a big disappointment, because it has been a very interesting race. It's the first time I have to retire from an offshore race, that's how bad it is'

Desjoyeaux is approximately 1000 miles away from his Brittany base, where he should arrive in about four days. Wiiner of the 2004 edition, and also of the Route du Rhum and the Vendée Globe, Desjoyeaux has an unrivaled singlehanded offshore track record.

BT retains lead

For the rest of the Artemis Transat fleet it's been another painstakingly slow night for the leading pack, and the boats had to deal with the ridge of the Azores high, bloated and well installed in the middle of the Atlantic. As a consequence, the lows are installed off the Canadian and USA coasts and remain very static.

The light airs area's surface equals to roughly 500 square miles - the speeds are desperately low, with distances in 24 hours around the 150-mile barrier, a figure that even a Mini sailor wouldn't be very happy with. Generali, positioned North (and alone up there since Michel Desjoyeaux's 'U Turn' yesterday), has had to deal with the lightest winds, whil the south packed has made contact with a fluky NW breeze.

BT has still managed to remain in the lead, keeping a 25-mile advantage over the PRB and Gitana Eighty threats. While in Class 40, Telecom Italia also retains the lead, ahead of Beluga Racer and Mistral Loisirs.

The Fleet will start a news blackout Friday night - Loick Peyron commented that he would favour a 15-day blackout

'I think it's a very good thing, an excellent idea on the part of the organisers. I'd even be in favour of a 15-day blackout to be honest! The last data we will get (note: tonight) will be crucial, because they will be our last link with our little friends. I really like the notion that everything will be possible.'

IMOCA 60 - Positions - DTF - DTL at 06:00hrs 16 May 2008

1 BT 1772.1 0.0
2 PRB 1794.0 21.8
3 Gitana Eighty 1796.6 24.5
4 Generali 1830.9 58.8
5 Brit Air 1841.2 69.1
6 Roxy 1956.8 184.6
7 Akena Vérandas 1965.7 193.6
8 Foncia 1978.7 206.5
9 Cervin EnR 1983.9 211.8
10 Safran 1985.6 213.5
11 Aviva 2019.1 247.0
12 Spirit of Weymouth 2027.3 255.1
13 Pakea Bizkaia 2009 2049.6 277.4

lass 40 - Positions - DTF - DTL at 06:00hrs 16 May 2008

1 Telecom Italia 2037.2 0
2 Beluga Racer 2058.1 20.9
3 Mistral Loisirs - Pole Santé ELIOR 2059.2 22
4 Appart City 2060.9 23.7
5 40 Degrees 2064.3 27.1
6 Custo Pol 2070.5 33.3
7 Fujifilm 2071.8 34.6
8 Groupe Partouche 2083.1 45.8
9 Groupe Royer 2101.9 64.7
10 Clarke Offshore Racing 2105.8 68.6
11 Prévoir Vie 2120.8 83.5