Outwardly simple, the technical pit-stops require quick reactions and precision from the shore crews. They also require a little mutual aid on site and a spot of luck...
After making the port of Mindelo on the island of Sao Vincente (Cape Verde) this morning at 0645 GMT, Vincent Riou and Jean Le Cam (PRB) took barely an hour to swap over their rudder, which they broke in the vicinity of Madeira. The apparent ease of the express repair disguises what was a true race against the clock for the shore crew from the minute they learned of the damage.
“In this type of situation, we immediately put in place a crisis unit with some well defined protocols for action”, explains Fabienne Morin, head of communications for PRB. “Logically I’m the first to be informed by the skipper and then I manage the broadcasting of the information to the organisers, sponsors and, most importantly, the shore crew. This means that I have to be available 24/7 whilst they’re racing, as does Jean-Marc Failler (Manager of Team PRB). The idea is essentially to limit the number of people required to pass on information so that the news circulates quickly and well.
In this particular case, we received the news at around 0100 GMT on Tuesday morning. From there we had to pick up a spare rudder, decide on the location for the technical pit-stop and put it into operation as quickly as possible”. Fortunately for Vincent Riou and Jean Le Cam, the port of Sao Vincente was virtually on the intended route. But it was still necessary to get there! Direct flights to these small islands are non-existent so it took two stopovers (depart from Nantes then Lisbon, then Praia on the island of Sao Tiago, and finally Mindelo) before the shore crew made up of Jean-Marc Failler and Philippe Laot, made landfall on Cape Verde soil… without the rudder that had been forgotten during the stopover in Praia!
Fortunately, the local solidarity came to the rescue as the coastguards, alerted to the situation by the harbour authorities, were able to recover the appendage and send it onto its final destination yesterday morning. Without this precious assistance, the part would have arrived late this morning via airliner. This would have caused the PRB duo to lose valuable hours after they’d already been stripped of their first place by about ten miles or so, to the benefit of MACIF (François Gabart and Michel Desjoyeaux)... they too the authors of a technical pit-stop in Portugal for the same reason a few days earlier.