In the Vendee Globe, after being informed that he has been disqualified for ‘receiving outside assistance’ when his anchor dragged during a technical stop in New Zealand’s remote Auckland Islands on December 23rd , Swiss solo skipper Bernard Stamm has pledged to try and have his case reopened by the five person International Jury.
The skipper of Cheminées Poujoulat needs to give the Jury good reason to do so, by presenting new, additional information beyond that in his original submission, before Thursday morning.
It is the cruellest of blows for the skipper whose third campaign to complete the Vendée Globe appears to have been foreshortened in the Pacific Ocean, even after spending nearly four days in two different locations repairing his hydrogenerators.
Vivid memories of losing his boat in this race four years ago in the Kerguelen Islands in very similar circumstances, trying to anchor in 40kts of wind, will almost certainly have been foremost in his mind during this unfortunate episode.
He confirmed that he will continue on the course to the finish in Les Sables d’Olonne. Skippers and observers have already suggested the very popular Stamm would be accorded a huge welcome if he did.
After anchoring Sandy Bay to the south of Enderby Island difficult conditions, Stamm awoke to find he had been joined in the compact cove by a Russian scientific ship which had anchored close to him. Realising Cheminées Pooujoulat’s anchor was dragging and he was drifting towards the ship, Stamm contacted the captain by VHF, and asked if he could lie alongside. He reported that when he was inside his IMOCA 60 preparing things to move, he came back on deck to find a Russian crewman on board:
Stamm, who twice lead this race, sounded despondent but objective when he told Vendée Globe LIVE today: ' When I saw my anchor was moving I called on the VHF to warn the other boat that I was getting closer. They are the one who told me I could tie up to them. I was running everywhere on the boat trying switch on everything. When I came out, there was someone trying to pull up the anchor. I did not even have time to tell him to get off my boat, especially since we were dragging. I finished pulling back up the anchor and he fastened the line to his boat. Any sailor in the world would have done the same thing, and it happened so fast that I did not think what is specified in the rules Maybe the captain of the Professor Khromov can testify but I'm not sure he would bring any new elements.'
Bernard Stamm is disqualified under the fundamental ‘no outside assistance’ rule of the Vendée Globe. He is the first skipper in the race to be disqualified by a jury decision. His honesty and candour in his submission echo that of the case of American skipper, the late Mike Plant, who – ironically – set a strong precedent in 1989.
After his rigging was damaged Plant sailed 36 hours to try and anchor at Campbell Island, New Zealand. A storm threatened to put his boat on to the rocky beach there. Four meteorologists witnessed his plight, launched their inflatable boat and Plant accepted a tow in order to save his boat. He was well aware that outside assistance would nullify his race.
Marlin Bree's book, Broken Seas, recalls: The meteorologists suggested to Mike that he simply continue the race. They vowed eternal silence. No one would know.
'Except I would,' Mike answered.
Mike radioed the race committee that he had accepted outside help and that he would continue the race, though disqualified.
Popular support for Stamm in the media and on the internet has been widespread. British skipper Mike Golding summed up his opinion from his nav station on Gamesa:
'I think he would get a particularly warm welcome back in Les Sables d’Olonne. The race, for the leader, is about being the leader, but for the boats that are further back, including myself, the race is about the atmosphere at the start, the atmosphere at the finish and the amazing adventure you have in between. The rankings, the classement, it is something you follow, it keeps you driving on and keeps you pushing your boat and keeps you trying to catch the boats in front and stay away from the boats behind, but it is not the only driver to doing the Vendée Globe. I think the reception Bernard gets as he goes up the canal in Les Sables d'Olonne, will be, and should be, equal and perhaps greater than the boats around him. Bernard is a very popular skipper, and rightly so, he is a lovely guy, and he has worked extraordinarily hard on this project, and I think everyone in this race, and everyone of his followers and the followers of the race will be really upset by the prospect of a seemingly heartless jury, making a decision that perhaps they had to make.'
From the stress of the Pacific and the challenges of their Cape Horn rounding last night in difficult visibility with ice threatening their route, Vendée Globe leaders François Gabart and Armel Le Cléac’h rolled to the next extreme, the first challenge of the Atlantic when they were stalled today by very light winds as they try to break east from Tierra del Fuego towards the Falkland Islands.
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Their temporary slowdown may have enhanced their shared feeling of relief. Gabart, speaking on Vendée Globe LIVE for the first time since he lead his first Vendée Globe around Cape Horn, sounded more relaxed but clearly delighted that one of his dream scenarios had come true: 'In some ways it is only symbolic but I'm still very glad I took the lead, it makes me very happy. The first time round Cape Horn it's bound to feel like something big, I hope that the next will be just as strong. We saw some great times in the Southern Ocean but it is also difficult to get out. And so it is a good thing when you do,' summed up Gabart.
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The solo skippers of Macif and Banque Populaire struggled to make double digit boat speeds for much of today, though the punchy Gabart managed to squeeze east slightly quicker, extending his lead to 33 miles over Le Cléac’h. Though Gabart bettered by four days, eight hours and 50 minutes the elapsed passage time record from Les Sables d’Olonne to Cape Horn, lowering the mark to 52 days six hours 18 minutes, Mike Golding’s 2004 record from Cape Leeuwin to Cape Horn set in 2004-2005 remains intact. Gabart’s time from Cape to Cape was 17 days 18 hours 35 minutes, compared with Golding’s 16 days, six hours 26 minutes in 2005.
The next few days in the South Atlantic look set to be complicated for the leaders, dealing first with the high but then sailing initially upwind on the first low pressure system to break away from the South American coast.
Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac-Paprec 3) is expected at Cape Horn during the early hours of Thursday morning, compressing steadily on the leaders today. Dick will have more breeze at Cape Horn than the leaders but may have the chance to gain more miles after the Le Maire Straits if he is offered the more direct route north which current weather modeling suggests.
Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) seems blessed with the most favourable trajectory in to Cape Horn, expecting to arrive around 0600hrs UTC on Friday morning, but passing during the hours of darkness with so much ice around, gives Thomson some concern:
' ……. this isn’t ideal timing as it will be the middle of the night for me so will be dark which is a little concerning given the current warnings of reported ice in the area. I am very much looking forward to getting around though and out of the Southern Ocean and heading North again - especially as this will be my first solo rounding.'
Bernard Stamm, SUI, Cheminées Poujoulat: The Russian ship Professor Khromov arrived late in the night, when I was already at anchor. I saw her by chance at daybreak; but the visibility was low. Fairly quickly my anchor began to move and there was a risk of a collision. Everything happened very quickly, I couldn’t think about the rules. I thought that the ship was effectively a dead object. So for me, I was right to did what I did. If I had to change my plan it would have been to have to sailing away from my place with no electricity. That would have been nonsense..
Mike Golding, GBR, Gamesa : I think I can see the thinking behind the decision. The rules are the rules and all that. But I think when you know all the story about Bernard and you know the situation he is in now, facing a good chunk of South Pacific to sail across and then icebergs at Cape Horn and the problems he still has, I think it just doesn't feel right. It doesn't feel like the right thing. But as I say, the rules are clear and unfortunately, based on the information I've got, it sounds like the rules were inadvertently, and I think I make that point, inadvertently breached. I am not sure about it at all, it doesn't feel right to me and I really …… I am very, very sad for Bernard and I hope he can get an appeal together and stay in the race.' 'I think the reception Bernard gets as he goes up the canal in Les Sables d'Olonne, will be, and should be, equal and perhaps greater than the boats around him. Bernard is a very popular skipper, and rightly so, he is a lovely guy, and he has worked extraordinarily hard on this project, and I think everyone in this race, and everyone of his followers and the followers of the race will be really upset by the prospect of a seemingly heartless jury, making a decision that perhaps they had to make.
François Gabart, FRA, Macif : It's going great, I'm glad to have got into the Atlantic after passing Cape Horn. It is symbolic but I'm very glad I took the lead, that means pure happiness. The first time it's bound to feel big and special, I hope that the next will be just as strong. We had some great times in the Southern Ocean but it is also difficult to round Cape Horn, and so it all good when it stops. Today the wind has calmed down, there is a little sun, it is not unpleasant to be in these conditions. After Cape Horn, it was amazing to see the change of atmosphere in just a few minutes. The sea is flat now.
I had not seen a single piece of land from Cape Finisterre. I went to 2.5 miles from Cape Horn and although at first I did not see it at all, I finally see a piece of land at the bow, when night fell. The hardest thing was just next to New Zealand, to Auckland Islands. Finally Cape Horn is the issue, it's the end of it. It is true that the conditions were quite mild yesterday - 48 hours in a big high pressure ahead. But this is like half time in rugby, because there are still about a month left
Jean-Pierre Dick, FRA, Virbac-Paprec 3: Bernard Stamm has committed an infraction of the rules. I can understand he can be penalized for it, but not like that. Disqualification is really strong. It's unbelievable! It was case of 'force majeure', Bernard acted as a good sailor to keep his boat secure. Our projects require significant involvement, hard work from the sailor, the teams and the sponsors. Bernard is fighting every day against the elements. I think it will be fairer if he remains in the race with a penalty. I want the jury to reconsider its decision.