Today the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) in Halifax, Nova Scotia has been overseeing the rescue of Swiss skipper Bernard Stamm from the upturned hull of his Open 60 Cheminées Poujoulat-Armor Lux.
At 0525 GMT this morning, Stamm contacted the Race Organisers to advise them that he had major keel failure. At 0645 GMT, Stamm activated his distress beacon thereby setting in motion a search and rescue operation co-ordinated by the MRCC in Halifax.
At the time she was at 49deg 50.5' N 44deg 08.2' W some 411 miles from Cape Race, the south easternmost tip of Newfoundland.
Three hours earlier while sailing in 45 knot winds Stamm had expressed serious concern about his keel, which was ‘shaking terribly’. Stamm said: 'For me the race is finished, I have to slow down and I head towards the nearest land,' he had said.
Following the EPIRB transmission the MRCC in Halifax scrambled a Canadian Air Force Hercules from Greenwood, Nova Scotia to locate Stamm's upturned Open 60 visually.
The Hercules made visual contact with the boat at 1230 GMT and spoke to Stamm via aviation radio frequency confirming he was safely inside the capsized hull.
The MRCC also diverted the vessel, Emma, to the scene as well as the Jean Charcot, a European Fisheries protection vessel.
The small tanker 'Emma' reached Stamm's stricken boat at 1430 GMT and Bernard Stamm swam from his upturned hull and boarded Emma's lifeboat at approximately 1545 GMT for transfer to the ship.
Fortunately, the wind in the area had abated to 20-25 knot from the north-northwest and there was good visibility, although a 3-4m sea was still running.
Sebastien Josse's Open 60 VMI, the only Open 60 in The Transat on Stamm's northerly latitude, was initially asked to divert but was later relieved of this duty by the MRCC.
Earlier this morning at 0430 GMT The Transat organisers were also advised that Vincent Riou's Open 60 PRB had been dismasted.
At the time PRB had been sailing on starboard tack in 25 knot northwesterly winds around 60 miles to the southeast of Stamm's location.
Open 60s have twin rudders and for reasons of safety PRB's have a kick-up system that maintains the integrity of the rudders in the event of a collision.
Riou says that he was below when he felt the rudder collide with a submerged object. The rudder kicked up as it was designed to but with no steerage, the boat bore away, gybed and was laid flat.
This occurred so violently that the mast was broken. As he attempted to cut away the rig the boom was violently hammering on the deck and Riou was obliged to let this go over the side too.
He is thus left with no spars with which to erect a jury rig. Riou is now discussing with his shore team the best course of action to get the boat to land. This may involved sending a boat from the St Pierre et Miquelon islands to recover skipper and vessel.
Meanwhile the racing is fierce. In the ORMA 60s the lead of Michel Desjoyeaux's Geant has been halved over the last 24 hours. The Vendée Globe winner now leads Thomas Coville's Sodebo by 49.8 miles.
With only 433 miles to the finish of the 2800 mile course in Boston and some challenging weather conditions ahead, the race is still far from over.
The current ETA for Geant is late tomorrow night (8.6.04).
The match race has resumed between Open 60 skippers Mike Golding's Ecover and Mike Sanderson's Pindar AlphaGraphics.
At the 1300GMT position report Golding was due east of the Grand Banks, 343 miles from Cape Race with Sanderson just 3.4 miles behind in terms of distance to finish.
In the 50ft multihulls, American sitesalive.com record breaker Rich Wilson continues to move up the fleet and has overtaken the French cruising catamaran Gifi to take second place in his class, 115 miles astern of Eric Bruneel on Trilogic.
Among the 50ft monohulls Joe Harris' northerly route has paid dividends and he is now just 13.7 mile behind first placed fellow Bostonian Kip Stone on ArtForms.