Marc battles on to finish line with 6 tonnes of water ballast

The keel problem which has been worrying Marc Guillemot since the Azores, deteriorated yesterday. After attempting to make a temporary fix with ropes, Marc reported this afternoon that his keel has dropped out of the boat.

He has Safran fully ballasted with nearly 6 tonnes of water and is determined to complete the 976 miles to the finish line at Les Sables d’Olonne. 
He is making between 9 and 11 knots under a triple reefed mainsail and staysail and said that he will do whatever it takes to finish.

Marc Guillemot’s Vendée Globe has been laden with unexpected challenges and the widest spectrum of emotions of any skipper left in the race. Now he has a massive final test, completing his race without a keel.
Since Sunday, the keel had been moving in the fore and aft plane and giving cause for concern. Early this morning it had slipped several centimeters down into the keel box and Marc was forced to try to make a fix by securing it with ropes to the mast and a winch, but early this afternoon he realized suddenly that the ropes were slack. He no longer had a keel.
In fact, Marc, reported in a call late this afternoon, he was prepared for this eventuality and was almost relieved that the keel had gone, since it was no longer threatening to damage his hull. At least now knows the magnitude of his problem. He believes his keel loss is a delayed consequence of a collision he had with a sea mammal on the evening of December 17th near the Kerguelen Islands.
At the time his rudder became detached from the boat and Safran broached violently, and later reported damage to his daggerboard which he changed two days later. But the most stressful period for Marc was when he was diverted to help the injured Yann Eliès on 18th December, standing by him until the Generali skipper was evacuated on 20th December.
Marc, sounding tired and stressed this evening, says he is determined to complete this race whatever place he ends up in. He now has full windward ballast tanks and says he is taking it as easily as possible. Conditions are choppy but he has around 12-13 knots of wind. He has less than 980 miles to sail.
His nearest rival for third place Sam Davies has been making good speed in brisk conditions and is within just seven miles of the compromised Safran. Marc’s primary desire is simply to finish, but he still has over two days worth of redress to his credit.  
The duel between Brian Thompson (Bahrain Team Pindar) and Dee Caffari (Aviva) looks like it may go the wire, or at least be settled in light winds in the Bay of Biscay as they approach the finish. She has closed to within 47 miles now although neither are moving at pace this afternoon.

” My concern is always for my mainsail, and take it easy and cautious, use the wind to get as many miles in safely as possible and negotiate the next bit of weather. I am sure it will be wet cold and miserable, the northern European winter awaits and is greeting us with a vengeance.”