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TransAt Jacques Vabre- Cheminées Poujoulat breaks up in Atlantic gale

by Sail-World on 25 Dec 2013
Cheminées Poujoulat in the Transat Jacques Vabre 2013 Th.Martinez/Sea&Co

Cheminées Poujoulat, sailed by Bernard Stamm and Damien Guillou, who was making their delivery trip back from the trans Atlantic race, the Transat Jacques Vabre, triggered their emergency beacon yesterday evening, when 180 miles from Brest, their home port, and off the tip of Cornwall, UK.

After a rescue operation, Bernard Stamm and Damien Guillou, are unharmed, and are currently on board a cargo ship en route to Rotterdam where they are expected tomorrow night. Bernard Stamm, the Swiss skipper delivers his first explanations.

Bernard, can you tell us about the accident? What exactly happened?

'Damien and I were sailing 200 miles off the tip of Cornwall around 180 miles from Brest. We were sailing downwind just ahead of the front. The wind was blowing at between 43 and 45 knots, but we were coping. We had prepared ourselves for this gale. We were already under storm sail with 4 reefs in the mainsail. In other words, we had the hand brake on, but crashing down on a wave the boat broke in two, just in front of the daggerboards. The mast didn’t come down immediately. We quickly closed all the watertight compartments and then the mast fell backwards. We quickly asked for help then organised our survival on board.'

What do you mean?

'We got ready to abandon the boat. The seas were high so we tried to work out how much damage there was likely to be to Cheminées Poujoulat. With Damien, I tried to free the mast of the 60-foot boat, but we couldn’t manage it. It was really too dangerous. However we managed to shift it enough so that it fell into the water and stopped banging into the hull. Straight after that, inside the boat we got together the survival gear. Obviously we didn’t know how much longer the boat would remain afloat.'


How did the rescue operation go?

'A Falcon 50 based in Hyères reached us at around 2330 hrs after refuelling in Bordeaux. They coordinated the rescue before a marine patrol plane took over around six this morning. Meanwhile, an attempt was made to lift us off by helicopter by the British rescue team on a Sea King. They asked us to put the raft in the water so that a diver could pick us up. We did that, but Damien and I just couldn’t get away from the boat. It was really dangerous, as we kept banging into the broken bow. In the end, we had to get back on board Cheminées Poujoulat leaving most of our water, survival kit, phone, rockets on the life raft. In other words, we had played our best cards.'

For the rest of this story click here

For the French version click here

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