Dismasting, capsizes and injuries - are these boats safe?

Cold fronts and high winds have pounded the fleet of the Transat Jaques Vabre. The race from France to South America is for two-handed Open 50 and 60 monohulls and multihulls.

The trimaran Foncia capsized whilst in 2nd place in the ORMA multihull fleet rankings, quite near to the leader Groupama-2. It was during the passage of the second, worse cold front that the accident happened. Foncia was progressing upwind at an average speed (about 10 knots) heading West in a 35 – 45 knot SWesterly breeze, waiting for the wind shift to the North West.

Skipper Armel Le Cléac’h liaised with the Race Doctor, Jean-Yves Chauve, because his co-skipper, Irishman Damian Foxall, had injured his shoulder and it seems that his collarbone is broken.

A rescue operation is already underway to pick up the two Swiss skippers on the damaged trimaran Orange Project and it may be routed on towards Foncia. A helicopter which has been refuelled by a helicopter carrier, is operational and will cover the zone from now on.

The Open 60 Galileo, skippered by Brazilian Walter Antunes and Raphael Coldefy, has sent in a message to the Transat Jacques Vabre race office that the boom has broken and that they are going to head for a Spanish port (tbc) and therefore are retiring from the race.

Also, in the Multihull Open 50 class, Victorinox and Branec have suffered damage and are derouting towards the coast, but have not confirmed their port of destination. Victorinox, skippered by Dany Monnier and Pierre Dupuy, has broken their bowsprit, and Branec’s port float has broken up. Branec’s crew, skippers Roger Langevin and Henriette Lemay, are waiting for the wind to shift before heading for the coast.

Another trimaran, Broossard, retired with a massive crack in the main hull.

Meanwhile Ellen MacArthur and co-skipper Roland Jourdain lead the Open 60 monohull fleet.

After such carnage among the multihulls, the question must be asked: are these boats really designed to cross oceans?