by Soazig Guého
Early this afternoon in Saint Philibert, Marc Guillemot’s team took off Safran’s mast and pulled her out of the water at the team’s base. The enquiry into the causes leading to the keel breaking four hours after the start of the Vendée Globe can now begin. At the same time, the whole team is busy working on establishing a race programme for 2013.
Safran, Saint Philibert
At 1745hrs CET on Saturday 10th November, Marc Guillemot called up his shore team to inform them of a bang and a loud noise, which was followed immediately by the boat suddenly heeling right over. After making the boat safe, the skipper of Safran returned to les Sables d'Olonne during the night, where they were able to see that the keel had gone. On Sunday, the boat was towed back to La Trinité sur Mer. Three days later, Safran was taken out of the water. The investigation can now get underway.
Jean-Marie de la Porte, project leader within the Safran group, explains, 'For the time being, we don’t know what caused the keel on Safran to break, as we were completely satisfied with it for 20,000 miles. We are not excluding any possibility, a design fault, a problem with the manufacture or an external cause (a shock)? We are currently setting up an investigative committee with experts from the Safran Group, who will be trying to identify the origin of the damage. In order to be completely open, the results will be published. As we have done with each technical problem we have encountered on the boat, the conclusions of this assessment will be sent to the IMOCA class and to other teams with the goal of improving the safety and reliability of the boats.'
Marc Guillemot confirmed this point by point. 'It’s likely to take a few days to get over the disappointment. But we really have to start planning for the future. And to do that, we need to understand what happened. What I do know is that following these examinations, the causes leading to the loss of the keel will be revealed. Once we know, we will make a decision about what we need to consider for a new keel.'
What next in terms of racing? 'The boat is ready. She is just missing her keel. We shall be putting her back in the water very quickly and then setting up a race programme for 2013. Before that, it is going to take us a few days to get over what happened, which naturally was very hard for us. I keep telling myself that at least no one got hurt. It wasn’t a disaster, but at the same time, it is very upsetting for all those who have invested so much in this project.'
As for the race programme for the future, Gérard Le Page, in charge of the Safran Sailing Team told us, 'The damage in no way throws into question the partnership between Safran and Marc Guillemot, but it will of course have an impact on our race calendar to the extent that the boat, which was due to go into the yard at the end of the Vendée Globe, will now be doing so much sooner. The boat is in perfect condition apart from the keel. Our goal is to get the boat back out there sailing as quickly as possible, for training and then racing. We have a spare carbon keel that we will be using for that, but it is already rather worn and not suitable for the Vendée Globe. The partnership with Marc Guillemot runs until 2013. The Transat Jacques Vabre was already part of our programme and we will of course be taking part. We may also line up for some pre-season solo or crewed races and make some record attempts. In fact, we’re currently working on the programme. The boat is available and the skipper is ready too... so everything is in place for us to get out there sailing and flying the colours of Safran.'
Vendee Globe website