Just as the IMOCA Ocean Masters New York to Barcelona Race entered its next critical phase at the Strait of Gibraltar, this morning there was a profound set-back on board Safran that has forced the race’s long term leader to retire.
At midnight UTC Safran’s crew of Marc Guillemot and Morgan Lagravière was in the process of changing from their J2 sail to their smaller J3 jib while sailing upwind in heinous gale force conditions, 64 miles due west of Tarifa at the Strait’s western end. With the wind blowing 30-35 knots and the sea churned up by the wind-against-tide conditions, Guillemot severely injured his ribs during a fall.
As Guillemot recounted: “There was a bad sea state and at one stage, on a big wave, the boat rose up, I rose up with it, and then the boat slammed back down and I crashed down into the side of the furling drum. Luckily Morgan saw what happened and he was able to come and help me, because I was doubled over in pain.”
Following the incident, Lagraviére tacked Safran north to get away from the shipping lanes. Subsequently as they closed on the Spanish coast, Lagraviére – competing in his first ever IMOCA 60 race - spoke to the race committee to confirm that Guillemot’s injury was too great, he needed hospital treatment and they would be looking to make port. Safran officially suspended racing at 0600 UTC.
After liaising with the race committee, Safran headed for Cadiz some 25 miles to her north where she pulled into Puerto Sherry, just after 1300 UTC. Following the assistance of Nicolas Marino, Director General of the Andalucia Sailing Federation and his team, in coordination the Puerto Sherry Marina, upon Safran’s arrival Guillemot was taken ashore and straight to hospital. At this point the extent of Guillemot’s injury is unknown. Prior to reaching Puerto Sherry, Guillemot said that they had been in contact with a doctor in Quimper who had advised him on what medication to take and to lie down. “I have now managed to get out of my bunk - it’s still sore but feeling a lot better.”
He continued: “What I will remember about all this is what a great race Morgan and I have had. We worked really well together – made good routing and of that we can be really proud. Having to retire because of my injury – that hurts.”
With Safran heading for port, the lead in the IMOCA Ocean Masters New York to Barcelona Race has now been handed to Pepe Ribes and American Ryan Breymaier aboard Hugo Boss. After putting in a long tack taking her across to the Moroccan coast this morning, at 11:30 UTC Hugo Boss was on starboard tack in gale force easterlies with some 20 miles to go to Tarifa at the westerly end of the Strait of Gibraltar.
Hugo Boss’ media crewman Chris Museler reported that the boat was experiencing “a lot of pounding” but was otherwise sailing along nicely.
On board Team Neutrogena, still 34 miles from Tarifa at 11:30 UTC, Guillermo Altadill said it was very noisy on board with all the banging and crashing as they also attempted to avoid the vast quantity of maritime traffic funnelling into and out of the Mediterranean.
The round the world race veteran wouldn’t divulge whether he would be choosing the northerly or southerly routes through the Strait. “We will try to be on one of the shore coasts to get into flatter water with less waves and current against us,” he said, keeping his fingers crossed that the wind would abate by the time they passed through.
Altadill praised the preparation of Team Neutrogena by their shore team and thought this was one of the reasons why they had managed to keep up with Hugo Boss.
The Spanish veteran also expressed his sorrow at hearing of Marc Guillemot’s injury. He admitted that he too had some bruising – it was inevitable in big conditions such as those they have been experiencing – but his injuries were clearly not as extensive as the Frenchman’s.
Bringing up the rear, at 11:30 UTC, GAES still had 93 miles to go before she reached Tarifa, where they too were expecting gale force conditions in the Strait. Anna Corbella expressed her sadness to hear about the incident on Safran. “Throughout the race we’ve been saying constantly that Safran was sailing an excellent race. They had done a great job until the incident. We wish Marc a speedy recovery.”
These are sentiments shared by everyone involved with the IMOCA Ocean Masters New York to Barcelona Race.