Franck Cammas advised his shore crew, at around 1500 UTC today, that Groupama 4 had dismasted 650 miles offshore of the coast of Uruguay, whilst leading leg 5 from Auckland to Itajai.
Groupama 4, Start Leg 5 Auckland to Itajai - Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12
When the incident happened, Groupama 4 was sailing upwind on port tack in a northerly wind of around twenty knots.
The mast broke level with the first spreader (around ten metres above the deck).
She was at the time involved in a match race with Puma Ocean Racing to be first home and take maximum points for Leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race from Auckland to Itajai, Brazil.
Skipper Franck Cammas clutches his driPhone kit bag and fluffy kiwi at the prizegiving - Volvo Ocean Race, Leg 4 Finish
The boats were believed to have been sailing an upwind angle in 20-25kt winds and 2mtr seas, with a sailing speed of 12-13kts.
When the spar fell, bowman Brad Marsh suffered a slight injury to his forearm.
Skipper, Franck Cammas indicated that he wasn't requesting assistance and that he'd temporarily suspended racing.
Two options are being studied:
1. To continue the race under jury rig towards Itajai, the finish venue, some 650 nautical miles ahead.
2. To make for Punta del Este, wait for the new mast (stored in Rotterdam), rig it and then head back into the race from the point where they suspended racing (at 1500 UTC) to make for Itajai.
The dismasting should give Puma her first Leg win of the series, which will take her within five points of the Emirates Team NZ entry Camper, who should now finish fourth, assuming that Groupama can resume racing inside ten days. Currently Camper is in the Chilean port of Puerto Montt, undergoing a three day hull repair, followed by a week long sail to the finish.
Overall race leader Telefonica should finish second about one to five hours behind Puma, and the race will be between Camper and Groupama for the final podium position. The leaders are expected to finish in the afternoon of 6 April, GMT.
Team Sanya previously withdrew from the leg after breaking a rudder stock in the Southern Ocean and will be shipped to the start of leg 7 in Miami. Abu Dhabi Racing have announced they will be withdrawing from Leg 5, after suffering hull delamination, and will ship to Itajai from Puerto Montt.
Three yachts have now broken masts in the race, with a fourth, Team Sanya, being forced to suspend racing on Leg 2A out of Capetown, with damage to a piece of rigging necessitating a stop in Madagascar, while a replacement stay was flown to her.
Volvo Ocean Race positions after Groupama dismasting, with Puma close to the coast and Telefonica out to sea
Groupama Sailing Team website