French solo yachtswoman loses rig just 10 days from the end of circumnavigation

French solo yachtswoman Maud de Fontenoy was just ten days from the end of her singlehanded westabout cirumnavigation when her yacht, L’Oreal, lost its rig on Saturday 10 February.

Fontenoy, a 27 year transoceanic rower turned solo sailor, is safe and sound on board her boat and is currently 900 miles (approximately 1600 km) off the Australian coast. In a state of shock and feeling extremely disappointed, she waited for dawn to break to take stock of the damage.

‘I was sailing at a speed of 7 knots in normal of seas with 20 to 25 knot winds,” recounted Fontenoy. “The mast suddenly fell down and broke in half. It fell right next to me but I had time enough to jump into the cockpit and get into a safe place. Now half of it is in the water and constantly knocks against the hull. It is the middle of the night and I have no light nor any navigation instruments.’

It was getting dark when the rig fell and Fontenoy had very little time to assess the damage and try to cut the mast free to prevent it hitting against the vessel. Thankfully, L’Oréal Paris’s hull is made of aluminium and is highly resistant.

Fontenoy got in touch with Jean Luc Van Deen Heede, the boat’s former owner and skipper, to examine among others things the possibility of putting up a jury rig. At the moment, the priority is her safety: “I have the life raft ready with water cans and some food. My thermal suit is also to hand.”

Weather conditions in the area (at present approximately 30 knot westerly winds) are forecast to improve, said Richard Silvani of Météo France. The wind is progressively going to die down and blow in the required direction, from the south and towards the east.