It has taken Lionel 17 hours to bring his injured boat back to the harbour. The skipper had sent, yesterday at 18:30 French time (17:30 GMT), a message revealing the mast damage, which had occurred in the middle of the bay of Biscay, while he was sailing upwind with his reefed-up main and the small jib, under 20 to 25 knots (35 to 45 km/h) of south-westerly wind.
Gitana X arrived under a serious squall in the Quiberon bay. Everyone thought that lowering the main sail would take quite a bit of time. But, as an experienced sailor, Lionel had prepared everything.
First of all, he had managed to get the broken part of the mast (7 meters long) up on deck : "I pulled on it all night long. It did not come easily, so I took 10 minutes of sleep, then I went back to it again. It eventually came down – it kept my hands and my head busy..".
A necessary activity, which helped to cope with frustration and disappointment : "I don't have the feeling I made a mistake. I was sailing properly with the sails I had up there, I can even say I was underpowered. My main goal was to reach Guadeloupe (FWI). I was inside when the mast broke. I heard a little noise, so I went up on deck. I saw that the boom and the sails were still in place. I got the picture when I saw the mast portion hanging to leeward".
Telling his story calmly, in a low voice, his face looking tired from an agitated night, Lionel showed some signs of disappointment : "I'm somewhat shaken. This is not what I had planned. But these boats are quite fragile, rather hard to handle. It would be a good thing to know why the mast broke..".
Point of view
"By retiring, due to the mast breakage, underlines Benjamin de Rothschild, the boat's owner, Gitana joins the already long list of trimarans that are out of the race only 48 hours after the start of the 7th Route du Rhum. But it's a mechanical sport, where the time factor plays an essential role in the boat's performances. And it's obvious that with a late launch just 2 months before the start and only 2000 miles of sea trials, we're only at the beginning of our story with Gitana X, a boat we wanted to be very innovative. It's certainly not the last incident we will have to cope with in the set-up process. Of course, the Gitana Team is quite disappointed, because human and emotional investments are quite consequent in this type of projects, but no one was injured apart from the boat, and we're ready to go back to work for the next season".
Benjamin de Rothschild, boat's owner.
"Lionel has offered us a beautiful race debut, says Olivier Besse, Gitana Team Project Manager. We knew he wanted to take a safe start in order to get to know the boat. His progression showed us that he was acquiring some confidence, building up speed. I wish to congratulate him for that. I also wish to thank him to have brought Gitana X safely back home, without further damage than the broken mast, which has probably not been easy given the kind of weather he encountered on his way back towards La Trinité. Concerning the assistance team, the members displayed their professionalism, coping with the situation along with Lionel. The Gitana Team proved to be tight and very reactive in this context".
Olivier Besse, project manager's.
High-resolution copyright-free pictures for press purposes : Gitana and Lionel Lemonchois, at sea and ashore, arriving in La Trinité-sur-Mer : www.pixsail.com and upon request from the press office (photo credit : Photos Gitana SA + photographer's name)