Thierry Martinez / Sea & Co

Bernard Stamm and Jeff Cuxon safe and sound

As PRB makes for the Azores too in the Transat Jacques Vabre

Monday November 7th 2011, Author: Andi Robertson, Location: none selected

After setting off their EPIRB mid-morning today Bernard Stamm and Jean Francois Cuzon are recovering on the Azores island of Terceira after they were rescued from their damaged new IMOCA 60 Cheminées Poujoulat which was racing north of the Azores in the Transat Jacques Vabre race from Le Havre to Costa Rica. Also damaged in the stormy seas was 2004 Vendée Globe winner Vincent Riou’s PRB, which has diverted towards the island of Horta. Riou reported that a forward bulkhead had cracked and would require a proper repair in dock which could take three days.

After a tense morning following the news that Stamm and Cuzon had activated their distress beacon because their Cheminées Poujoulat had been taking on water since they had discovered it at 2300 the previous evening, the helicopter airlift was completed at 1154 UTC.

An attempt to recover Cheminées Poujoulat is being launched from the island of Horta. When the rescue took place, the yacht was reported to be some 230 miles the north of Punta Delgada on the Azores island of San Miguel.

Cuzon was also rescued from this area during the 2009 Transat Jacques Vabre when the IMOCA 60 BT, he was racing with Sebastien Josse, sustained damage to their coachroof when they were 210 miles north of the Azores.

"It happened early in the night.” Stamm reported once on land. “In the depression we had expected a lot of wind and were going at about 15 knots on a reach. We preparing to take in the second reef and change to the ORC. I went into the boat to get something and that is when I realised that it was full of water. The gennaker had floated into the living space. Immediately I could see this was a big problem. We immediately furled the headsail and stopped the boat. It was obvious that the ingress of water was important. We had to secure the boat and make ourselves safe. Jeff took care to care to bring the safety equipment and we made ready to abandon ship if necessary and I set to getting the bilge pumps working. We still had electricity for a good while. We had the watertight bulkhead doors shut in front which meant the compartments could be isolated. We could see it was possible to stem the flow of water, so the boat wasn’t going to sink. There were choices to make. We tried to see if it was possible to get help without triggering the distress beacon, but it didn’t work out, as the seas were too nasty for anyone to have got close to us. We even tried to continue to sail, but we quickly abandoned that idea, as the boat started filling again very quickly. After that, given the weather and he circumstances it was not prudent to stay on board. So we set off the beacon.

"The lift went very well. Just before we were lifted off we completely secured the boat. When they arrived they told us what to do. We took to the life raft cut the lines that held us to the boat then we were airlifted off.”

Stamm and Cuxon were evacuated to the Naval Air Station on Terceira while the Cheminées Poujoulat techncal team prepares to try to recover their IMOCA 60, presumably using a boat from Horta.

When he was contacted by the Transat Jacques Vabre radio vacs from Paris at midday PRB skipper Vincent Riou could not conceal his disappointment. PRB was considered to be perfectly prepared and had already proven to be one of the pre-race favourites, and lead through the early stages of the race which started last Wednesday. Riou and co-skipper Hugues Destremau considered they had negotiated the vicious frontal system which hammered the IMOCA 60 class last night. It had been widely forecast and expected but when it came it surprised many of the more experienced competitors.

“With the cold front passing over were were on starboard tack across to heavy seas. We were trying to avoid slamming with reduced sail. Then we discovered the broken bulkhead. It is probably result of slamming, but usually it breaks away from hull rather than breaking into bits. It is a very complicated thing to attempt to repair, as needs to be strengthened over a 1sqm surface. A repair at sea wouldn’t be good, so have to head for port. We damaged a daggerboard when we hit something a few days ago. May just be linked to that, but can't say for now.”

Riou and Destremau are en route to Horta where they will assess their prospects of completing the race.

In Class 40 the young Britons on Concise 2, Ned Collier-Wakefield and Sam Goodchild are sailing with a maturity which may belie their years but with an average age of 22 they have already tucked away a considerable amount of ocean racing experience. They remain within 6 miles of the race leaders, Yannick Bestaven and Eric Drouglazet on

Sounding ice cool and relaxed Collier-Wakefield described their passage of the front which gave them 64knots of wind, as ‘interesting’. “It has calmed down a little bit but we still have an interesting sea state. We had 64kts from the front which we went through at about 0800 this morning, so no we have dived south a bit and the sun has come out and it is much better.

"It was pretty interesting, we had to put a tack in as the shift came, which was a lot of fun. But in fact we have no problems at all, we have three reefs in but it is all going really well. We are just slamming through some pretty big seas at the moment.

"We are both good, just having a re-tidy of the boat. It is a bit of a disaster down here, things every where, but we have been able to mop up and tidy up. It is sad for Tanguy and obviously he is going to get this low which will be just about on top of him now, so fingers crossed for him. They were lucky for sure to keep the boat upright.

"It was quite nice yesterday in the sense that we knew the front was coming and we mentally prepared and prepared the boat. We got all the sails up on deck that we were going to change to later, we got the third reef led and we got our heads in gear, ate a load of food and then got ready for us. I think Aquarelle are about 20 miles away from us and we are just closing guage slowly, so we are just driving south a bit and then we will have to tack back to get through this next front, I think it is going to be quit exciting and hopefully we can stay with them and have fun all the way across ‘the pond’.In terms of big breeze reaching I think they ( have the legs on us, but as soon as it dies down a bit then we come back into them.”

The two leading Class40s now have a decent gap back to third placed ERDF les Pieds et les Mains. Damien Seguin and Yoann Richomme have taken a route more south and east. And in fifth place Jesse Naimark-Rowse and Hannah Jenner on 40 Degrees still hold 56 miles shy of fourth.

Naimark-Rowse reported:  “We just went through the front and it was quite windy, sustained 50 knots and a very rapid shift so the whole combination of things was just a little bit lively. We went through it was about an hour ago. It had been blowing 30-35 knots for several hours and then rapidly built to 45-50 knots with driving rain and then the wind shifted through from SSW to the NW very, very quickly and so we had to bear away on port when we were getting everything ready to tack, we actually to take the main down while we drained the water ballast to the other side, just to have the boat under control to tack the boat. So that was a bit of a job. We didn’t break anything and we have everything re-settled inside the boat and then getting set up for the next front which we should get in about eight hours.”

For the IMOCA fleet there is still another period of stormy winds ahead, but the hardest should be behind them. Lead by Virbac-Paprec 3, with Jean-Pierre Dick and Jérémie Beyou, some 13 miles up on Alex Thomson and Guillermo Altadill on Hugo Boss – who had a couple of hours of minor, small repairs to make good early this morning, there is still just 21 miles between first and third.

Their big question will be how to negotiate a ridge of high pressure which will extend SE from the south of Newfoundland before hoping to get to oxygen of the long awaited trade winds. The fleet is aligned on a north-west to south-east axis with the lead stacked from from north to south, Virbac-Paprec 3, Banque Populaire and MACIF.

Meanwhile both Multi50s still in the race are reported to be in good shape. Maitre Jacques profited in the bad weather to the north and were computed to be just 6.6 miles behind Actual in terms of the distance to the finish and a battle to the turning mark at St. Barts looks likely.

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