Vincent Riou, PRB - 2012 Vendee Globe
Vincent Riou, the winner of the 2004-05 Vendée Globe, rescuing hero of the 2008-09 edition and one of the favourites for this race has suffered a serious blow in the south Atlantic. A statement from his team said that Riou was uninjured after he had collided with a metal buoy but that the impact had damaged the bow of PRB:
'At 0700hrs (French time) on Saturday morning, Vincent Riou (PRB) warned his shore team that he had collided with a floating object. The skipper was at his navigation station at the time was able to get on the deck immediately after the impact and see that the object that had struck PRB was a harbour buoy (a large metal buoy).
'Following the collision, Riou found that the hull of his boat was torn and delaminated for about one metre. The impact was on the starboard side of the boat and the torn area is three metres from the bow. Riou was not injured in the collision. He will wait until daybreak to assess the damage and the possibility of repair. Conditions in the area are good and the wind between 12 and 15 knots. At the moment of impact, Riou immediately called the race office in order to report the position of the buoy to other competitors.'
Les images des dégâts sur PRB by VendeeGlobeTV
Riou is about 550 miles east of the north coast of Brazil and 450 miles due north of the Trindade Islands. He was in third place at the 0500hrs (French time) rankings, just 69.1 miles behind the leader Armel Le Cléac’h, (Banque Populaire), having been in the lead group since they started from Les Sables d’Olonne two weeks ago. It was an otherwise quiet night for the fleet with no change in the rankings in the morning.
The 40-year-old Brittany skipper is famous for his skill and inscrutability but you need some luck to finish a Vendée Globe let alone win one. It these hidden dangers, rogue containers and buoys that are not where they are supposed to be, are what the skippers fear most. Speaking before the start Riou said that sonar was not a practical solution:
'We did some research with an institute in France on a sonar system but it is not practical because it is half the weight of the whole boat and it uses lots of power,' he said. 'It needs a lot of energy and the boat is very fast and so to use a sonar to predict 200m ahead of the boat when you are travelling at 20 knots you need a very powerful system and it’s impossible to find one that is not too heavy. You have to be realistic these kind of devices are so impractical we are not going to install them and so we can’t even consider them. It’s too heavy and it’s uses too much power.'
Riou has faced greater dangers than this in the Vendée Globe. In the 2008-09 edition his older rival, Jean Le Cam, lost his keel bulb and capsized 200 miles west of Cape Horn and it was Riou who turned and reached him first as fears for Le Cam’s life grew. Le Cam had spent 18 hours trapped and brave five-degree water and 12 foot waves to swim to Riou, who got as close to Le Cam’s boat as he dared. In the process Riou is thought to have clipped his outrigger on Le Cam’s upturned keel and just 36 hours later, having continued the race with Le Cam on board, Riou was dismasted after just rounding Cape Horn. He was later awarded joint third place by the organisers.
Riou’s PRB is a new VPLP-Verdier-designed boat, one of four who are dominating this race and which before his collision were in the top four top positions in the fleet. The four boats are all lighter and faster than previous generations, with PRB’s thought to be the lightest at 7.5 tonnes.
More than anyone Riou will know that any repairs must be secure enough to withstand what the fleet faces as they prepare to drop down into the Roaring Forties and the mountainous seas of the Southern Ocean.