Jean-Marie Liot / DPPI / Vendee Globe

Bernard Stamm disqualified from the Vendee Globe

Swiss skipper deemed to have accepted outside assistance

Wednesday January 2nd 2013, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

The International Jury of the Vendee Globe has chosen to disqualify Bernard Stamm's Cheminees Poujoulat from the Vendee Globe. This has been for infringing article 3.2 of the Notice of Race, governing 'outside assistance and docking conditions', following the boat's pitstop on 23 December south of Enderby Island in the Auckland Islands to the south of New Zealand to repair Cheminees Poujoulat's broken hydrogenerators. The protest against the Swiss yacht was lodged with the International Jury comprising Bernard Bonneau (FRA), Ana Sanchez (ESP), Trevor Lewis (GBR),  Jack Lloyd (NZL) and Georges Priol (FRA) by the Race Committee.

Stamm has 24 hours (ie until Thursday morning) to request the jury re-examine his case, as laid down in RRS 66, and will have to state his reasons with new information. If no request is forthcoming at the end of this time period, the decision will stand. The Race Committee also has the same opportunity to reopen the case. Other competitors in the race also have the right to ask for redress within six hours of being informed of the decision, if they consider they are affected by the jury's decision.

The first part of Article 3.2 of the Notice of Race states: 

'During the event, a competitor cannot have any material contact with any other ship or aircraft. A competitor cannot be provided with any supplies in any way possible. A competitor can put into port, mooring or anchoring by his/her own means but cannot receive any  outside assistance, except for medical assistance strictly limited to the terms of the article 3.3 below.

'The competitor cannot dock or come alongside another boat.

'The competitors are not authorised to go ashore nor disembark above the limit of the highest level of high tide.

'Failure to comply with this article will disqualify the competitor after instruction by the jury.'

Protest Race Committee vs Cheminées Poujoulat time line


24 December 2012 at 12:13, the Race Committee send the jury a report about an incident involving Cheminées Poujoulat while she is moored in the Auckland Islands.

24 December at 15:07, the Race Committee sends the jury and the Race Committee notice of their intent to protest Cheminées Poujoulat for an alleged breach of the NOR 3.2.

24 December at 15:53, the Race Committee informs Bernard Stamm of the intention to protest by the Race Committee.

26 December at 12:57, the Jury request Bernard Stamm to comment on the protest, attaching the report from the Race Committee on which the protest is based

26 December at 21:37, the Race Committee send the jury their complete protest

27 December at 07:31, the Jury forwards the Cheminées Poujoulat team the complete protest from the Race Committee

28 December at 10:50, Regis Rassouli, from the Cheminées Poujoulat team, informs the jury that Bernard Stamm is back in the race and will send his report about the incident as soon as possible.

29 December at 10:40 Bernard Stamm sends the Jury his report.


Facts found

On 22 December, Bernard Stamm decides to change course toward the Auckland Islands in order to repair Cheminees Poujoulat's broken hydrogenerators.

Until 23 December at 04:00, Stamm sails by his own means to Sandy Bay and prepares to anchor.

At 04:53, Stamm anchors in the bay after having unsealed the engine and the heavy anchor.

At 20:00, Stamm notices the presence of a Russian scientific ship Professeur Khoromov, moored close to his position. Then, within half an hour, Bernard Stamm notices his boat is drifting. Seeing the boat is drifting toward the ship, Bernard Stamm calls her by VHF. During the chat with the crew, they propose to moor his boat to the ship. Considering this is an emergency situation, Stamm decides to use the ship as a mooring and informs the crew of his decision by VHF.

Then Bernard Stamm prepares the boat to move, sets the sails and turns on all devices. Coming back in the cockpit, Bernard Stamm notices that a person from the ship is on board his boat and has begun to recover the anchor. Bernard Stamm starts the engine and turns on the autopilot, then goes to the bow to recover the anchor.

Stamm decides not to ask this person to leave the boat "when I saw him on board I did not find any reason that could justify to send him back from the board," as he puts it. Stamm returns to the engine controls and the helm and the person on the bow throws the line onto the Russian boat to make it fast. Immediately afterwards, the person leaves Cheminées Poujoulat and returns to his RIB.

Once the boat has been correctly moored behind the Professeur Khoromov, Bernard Stamm goes to say hello to the two people in the RIB, and then they offer help. At this time, Bernard Stamm explains clearly the situation, that he is racing, that he is not entitled to any help.

Bernard Stamm considers that this was a case of absolute necessity for which it was needed to act in order to secure the boat and to prevent creating a problem for the ship moored nearby.


Mooring to another boat is a breach of the first sentence of NOR 3.2.

By not asking the person on his boat to leave when he discovered him, Bernard Stamm broke the second sentence of NOR 3.2.

Cheminées Poujoulat mooring to the Professeur Khoromov was made with the help of the person on board and the crew of the Professeur Khoromov. This is a breach to the second sentence of NOR 3.2.

Even though not requested, the assistance received from the crew member by Cheminées Poujoulat to secure her and to prevent creating a problem for the Professeur Khoromov constitutes a breach to NOR 3.2, and the material contact with another boat by mooring to her constitutes a breach to NOR 3.2 and to the principle of NOR 3.

Gamesa skipper Mike Golding commented on Stamm's disqualification:

"While the decision might technically be correct, it doesn't feel right. Bernard, perhaps more than others, has worked extremely hard to get to this Vendée Globe and is a great competitor.

"The Vendée Globe is the pinnacle of offshore racing, solo and without assistance. To preserve the fundamental ethos of the Vendée Globe we have to live by the sword and die by the sword. Part of the lure of the race is that it is without assistance and so places the ultimate premium on self-reliance.

"I think I can see the thinking behind the decision. The rules are the rules and all that. But I think when you know all the story about Bernard and you know the situation he is in now, facing a good chunk of South Pacific to sail across and then icebergs at Cape Horn and the problems he still has, I think it just doesn't feel right. It doesn't feel like the right thing. But as I say, the rules are clear and unfortunately, based on the information I've got, it sounds like the rules were inadvertently, and I think I make that point, inadvertently breached. I am not sure about it at all, it doesn't feel right to me and I really …… I am very, very sad for Bernard and I hope he can get an appeal together and stay in the race.

"Poor Bernard, he'll be devastated. I really empathise with his situation and with almost a duplication of what happened in the last edition, the safety of the boat and those around him must come first.

"The race, for the leader, is about being the leader, but for the boats that are further back, including myself, the race is about the atmosphere at the start, the atmosphere at the finish and the amazing adventure you have in between. The rankings, the classement, it is something you follow, it keeps you driving on and keeps you pushing your boat and keeps you trying to catch the boats in front and stay away from the boats behind, but it is not the only driver to doing the Vendée Globe. I think the reception Bernard gets as he goes up the canal in Les Sables d'Olonne, will be, and should be, equal and perhaps greater than the boats around him. Bernard is a very popular skipper, and rightly so, he is a lovely guy, and he has worked extraordinarily hard on this project, and I think everyone in this race, and everyone of his followers and the followers of the race will be really upset by the prospect of a seemingly heartless jury, making a decision that perhaps they had to make."

Latest Comments

  • nthomas 02/01/2013 - 18:14

    In the few protests I've been involved in in recent years, it seems that jurys have increasingly recoursed to the letter of the law perhaps over the spirit of it, as would seem to have happened here. Mike Golding is of course right in what he says, the letter of the rule would seem to leave the jury little option. However, given the nature of the race and of Bernard Stamm himself (and his complete honesty regarding the incident), a time penalty allowing him to at least score a finish would have seemed more appropriate. I've never met Bernard (or any of the skippers in the Vendee) but have followed and admired him (and them all) throughout each cycle for their tenacity, bravery and downright good humour... this is no way to end a man's dream.. My thoughts are with Bernard.. and I agree with Richard Tolkien.. we salute you and hope you'll be back.
  • 630195 02/01/2013 - 18:06

    Maybe this is, in fact, a case of "Force Majeur", a concept widely  recognized in law and applicable in certain circumstances in interpreting behaviour. If so , it would seem that the Jury should reconsider its position. Richard T

  • David Bains 02/01/2013 - 16:17

    It does seem very harsh. Assistance with mooring only, presumably to avoid collision after anchor dragging, should justify an appeal by Stamm. I'm sure he refused any assistance with the repairs. Let's hope the jury will be sympathetic.
  • 630195 02/01/2013 - 11:46

    Unfortunately, it is difficult to see how the Race Committee or Jury could have reached a different conclusion. Bernard is widely and rightly respected for his skill, tenacity and good humour. It appears that without his honesty, neither the Committee nor Jury would be considering the case. At this desperately difficult time for Bernard we should salute him and hope that he can find the strength to return for a fifth attempt. Richard Tolkien

  • James Boyd 02/01/2013 - 10:03

    We should bear in mind that this is the fourth time Bernard Stamm has attempted the Vendee Globe - after his boat was washed ashore in the Kerguelen Islands in the last race, when his boat was all but destroyed in the Artemis Transat the summer before the 2004 race and his retirement from the 2000 race... Poor guy

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