His team confirm the worst

Vendee Globe skipper Roland Jourdain’s team have confirmed that Veolia Environnement has lost her keel bulb.

The boat is being kept as stable as possible with the ballast in the bow and in the middle of with, the centre of effort of the sailplan kept as low as possible. It is still unknown exactly where the damage begins, as it may be the joint between the bulb and keel or higher on the keel blade.

For the moment it is out of the question to heel the boat over to see as this would risk causing the IMOCA Open 60 to capsize. It is also impossible for Jourdain to risk diving because of the sea state.

The first reaction was to continue to Les Sables d’Olonne, but it is understood that the skipper will not take any undue risk. For the moment he does not need to change course as the Azores are 600 miles ahead on his route. Until then, depending on the weather and sea state, everything will be done to ensure he can continue safely.

Bilou, contacted by his shore team this afternoon:

” I can’t explain how I didn’t capsize. When I tried to look under the boat, I couldn’t see anything… Normally, I should have seen something, but I shan’t be diving in these conditions, as there is quite a swell. On the other hand, I do know that if I hoist more sail, the boat heels over so there is definitely a problem with the keel. In the coming hours, I’m going to have to keep a close watch on the situation depending on the sea and weather to see how I can safely continue. I’ll do my utmost to get back to Les Sables unless the sea state does not allow me or it is simply too risky. I just need a helping hand from destiny and some normal weather to complete the race.”

Roland Jourdain has slowed to just under seven knots as he nurses Veolia Environnement towards the Azores with his damaged keel. He is now 888.5 miles behind Michel Desjoyeaux (Foncia) who has 855.4 miles to sail to the finish in Les Sables d’Olonne.

Jourdain’s only shred of solace at the moment may be that Armel Le Cleac’h, the Jackal, is slowed by the Azores high pressure ridge. While Jourdain needs to consider his options, he will have been doing the maths, as will The Jackal.

Bilou’s lead at the moment is equivalent to probably less than two average days racing.

1500 HRS GMT. Rankings, Thursday 29th January 2009

1 . Michel Desjoyeaux, Foncia, 914.6 miles to finish
2 . Roland Jourdain, Veolia Environnement, 859.1 miles from first place
3 . Armel Le Cleac’h, Brit Air, 1226.4
4 . Sam Davies, Roxy, 2312
5 . Marc Guillemot, Safran, 2402
6 . Brian Thompson, Bahrain Team Pindar, 2549.8
7 . Dee Caffari, Aviva, 2691.1
8 . Arnaud Boissières, Akena Verandas, 3391.9
9 . Steve White, Toe in the Water) 4215.1
10 . Rich Wilson, Great American III, 5489.4
11 . Raphael Dinelli, Fondation Ocean Vital, 7072.8
12 . Norbert Sedlacek, Nauticsport – Kapsch, 7147.5
RDG . Vincent Riou, PRB). 3rd equal. 30 boats started.

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