In the Vendee Globe, the news broke this morning that Vincent Riou, onboard his boat PRB, has retired from the race. Two days ago he collided with a large floating metal buoy and damaged his hull. After 48hrs of assessing whether a repair was possible, this morning, he reluctantly decided to retire from the race. He is the seventh boat to retire in the race in 15 days and there are now 13 boats remaining. It’s a shocking blow for Riou, who won the Vendée Globe in 2004.
Following the collision, Riou discovered that PRB had a 1m tear and significant delamination, three metres from the bow, the front of the boat, and later found there was damage to his carbon outrigger.
On Vendée Globe TV Live legendary Race Director, Denis Horeau explained the gravity of the situation. 'The outrigger shroud is made of fibres, it is designed to resist 35-ton pressure. When he realizes that 50% of the fibres are damaged, Vincent Riou knows the boat won’t be reliable and is, therefore, unsafe. Riou is a great technician, he knows that.'
An emotional Riou said, 'I thought really hard before making the decision, I wanted to make sure there was no other possibility for me to be able to continue in the race. But at one point you have to be resigned, I just couldn’t continue with a boat in that state. No matter how much energy you spend, it’s just not possible sometimes.
Yesterday, all day long, I was more optimistic because I hadn’t realized the outrigger shroud was damaged. It didn’t look that bad. But then I looked closer and saw the fibres were also damaged inside. Even though I had fixed the hull problem, the shroud was too much of a problem. So I finished fixing the hull, but I knew it was to sail to Brazil, not to continue the race.
The closest port is Salvador de Bahia, I know that place so I’m familiar with the pontoons. I know I’ll be able to find a dock to repair the outrigger. Because apart from that, PRB is perfectly fine so I’ll be able to sail back.
That’s what’s tough in a sailor’s life: Things are not always fate; but you must accept it, and live with it, otherwise it’s unbearable. But we have worked so hard and so I have to learn to live with it. Jean Le Cam called me last night.'
In his own press statement he talked of his remorse, 'Even though there was nothing I could do to avoid the collision and the damage that resulted, I cannot help but feel guilty. I felt really good in the race. These boats have awesome potential and I know that the race in the South this year will take another turn. The bar is very high and I would have loved to be part of it. This game, I really wanted to participate in.'
This is the voice of broken dreams that have been unfairly snatched away. Riou’s retirement is not down to anything other than pure bad luck and very unlikely odds. It is the hidden dangers of the ocean that create the unforeseeable problems and the old adage rings true that in order to finish first, first you must finish.
Armel Le Cléac’h continues to fashion the lead of the race. Today, Vendée Globe TV broadcast a video of him cruising along in shorts, a t-shirt sporting a pair of bright orange crocs. Le Cléac’h is quite the trendsetter and sales of bright orange crocs may well expect see a surge.
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Gabart (Macif) was also enjoying the clement, balmy conditions of the South Atlantic. He said, 'I’m wearing my swimsuit, no top and barefoot. Very warm weather. I don’t know what happened to JP Dick, he surprised me, maybe my settings weren’t perfect. He just left me behind! But now I’m at 17 knots, I think I caught the wind he had caught before.' Clearly, this Jean-Pierre jolt was enough to spur the ‘goldenboy’ Gabart into gear and he grabbed back his second place position.
Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss has rocked into fourth place today. He is enjoying some downtime and being able to read messages from the supporters after a few days of intense DIY SOS. Thomson explained LIVE today on Vendée Globe TV what a morale boost it was to know that people are following the race, saying, 'You sometimes feel quite removed from it all and so to know that 100,000s of people are watching you every move is very motivating.'
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The buoyant Di Benedetto continues his enthusiastic track towards the Equator. Gathering rainwater from the squalls he has been experiencing the skipper, who is growing salad onboard, enjoyed a freshwater wash. He said today in a recorded interview for Vendée Globe TV 'There’s not much wind, but heavy rain, so I was able to collect water and take a shower. When I cross the Equator, I’ll share some of my good rum with Neptune. I’ll have some too! I won’t drink too much, though, because it’s such a small bottle!' It will take more than some rain to dampen this adventurer’s spirits, although he might use some to dilute his rum spirits when he toasts Neptune in the next few days.
There is a lot of empathy for remorseful Riou amongst our intrepid skippers many who know first-hand about the agony of retirement.
Mike Golding (GBR, Gamesa): To be honest, hearing the damage, if anyone could have repaired it, it would have been him, but it would have been a pretty hard job. These things are hard to fix. It's very sad for him and sad for the race. He was one of the real contenders. I think he [Vincent] is experienced enough to have had a few disappointments in his career, it is a sport where technical problems can let you down, but this time it is made more frustrating by the fact that it is a little bit of junk in the ocean. If he had been 10 yards to one side, he could have continued his race. Fate wasn't on his side this time and it wasn't mean to be. He has a few days to get into where he needs to be and get his head around it.
François Gabart (FRA, Macif): I found out about Vincent Riou, it’s so sad. I saw the pictures of the damage to his boat and it’s unfortunately obvious his boat wouldn’t have been at 100% of her potential, which is problematic in the South. I have a lot of respect for him, he’s such a great competitor. Unfortunately, that’s what the race is about sometimes. Among the top sailors, he was the one with the greatest ability to find solutions, either tactically or practically, when work needs to be done on the boat.
Jean-Pierre Dick (FRA, Virbac Paprec 3): I’m so sorry for Vincent Riou, this is so sad, especially when you know the efforts all people involved in such a project have made. He’s been very unlucky. You start preparing a Vendée Globe years before the race, three years and nine months in my case, because I started thinking about it right after retiring from the previous Vendée Globe. And during those years, you live for your project, especially Vincent, who is his own project manager. He’s not just the skipper, he’s involved in everything, including the design and construction of his boat.
Alex Thomson (GBR, Hugo Boss): I’ve just heard the news about Vincent Riou having to retire from the race this morning. I really do feel very sad for him, it’s a real injustice to be out of the race because of hitting a buoy in the water, it’s such bad luck. He has a great boat, probably the most optimised of the fleet, and he’s sailed a very sensible race so far, and I really fancied him to do so well in this edition, so I just feel so sorry for him.
Vendee Globe website
by Vendee Globe - 5:25 PM Sun 25 Nov 2012 GMT
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2012 Vendee Globe
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