In a heartbreaking turn of events, skippers Vincent Riou and Sébastien Josse aboard PRB are almost certainly out of the Barcelona World Race. This morning, the team which has been alternating the race lead with Paprec-Virbac 2 over the past three weeks, lost the top three metres of its mast, making it impossible to continue racing. Both skippers are safe and the boat is now sailing towards Cape Town.
'What happened is quite simple to explain,' said skipper Vincent Riou by video-conference with race headquarters in Barcelona. 'We were sailing at about 20 knots under the big gennaker (and with a reef in the mainsail) and Sébastien and I were down below with the auto-pilot on looking at the weather conditions, when we hit a wave and heard a crack. We thought we had broken a halyard or something At no time did we imagine we'd lost the top of the mast. We went on deck and we saw the main sail still in place but the top part of the mast hanging down. It's finished for us.'
The crew called its shore team at 09:45 GMT to inform them of the incident. PRB is now making its way towards Cape Town, trying to get north before the arrival of the next weather system. They have not requested any assistance.
'We've managed to drop the mainsail and make everything as safe as we can. Now we have one piece of mast up and we're trying to escape before the next weather system arrives which could bring 40 knots,' said Sébastien Josse. 'We've made sure the boat is safe and the mast is safe and that we can move the boat quickly enough as we sail towards Cape Town. If our speed is good we can arrive in three or four days.'
Paprec-Virbac 2, who had moved into the lead yesterday, retains its first place position, and is now 76 miles ahead of second placed Veolia Environnement. The record breaking Hugo Boss is now just 100 miles off the lead.
'We can't let it (the damage to PRB) change the way we're sailing,' said Jean-Pierre Dick, skipper of Paprec-Virbac 2. 'We're feeling the stress of two very fast boats coming up behind us.'
Commiserations for PRB have come in from the rest of the fleet, with each of the skippers sad to see such a strong competitor fall victim to the fates and equally relieved to hear there have been no injuries.
Day 28 - December 8, 14:00 GMT - Position report with distance to leader
1. Paprec-Virbac 2 - Jean Pierre Dick / Damian Foxall - 0
2. Veolia Environnement - Roland Jourdain / Jean Luc Nelias - 76
3. PRB - Vincent Riou / Sebastien Josse - 84
4. Hugo Boss - Alex Thomson / Andrew Cape - 100
5. Delta Dore - Jérémie Beyou / Sidney Gavignet - 266
6. Temenos 2 - Dominique Wavre / Michele Paret- 594
7. Estrella Damm - Guillermo Altadill / Jonathan Mckee - 846
8. Mutua Madrilena - Javier Sanso / Pachi Rivero - 911
9. Educacion Sin Fronteras - Servane Escoffier / Albert Bargues - 1595
In Quotes - Sébastien Josse, PRB: 'It's not a happy feeling. We're very disappointed. We haven't pushed the boat or the crew too much so far. We haven't tried to match the other boats - like last night we didn't push as hard as Paprec-Virbac 2 - so we are really disappointed.'