French skipper Jeremie Beyou is to return to the Vendee Globe solo around the world race as soon as his shore team fix the damage to his Charal IMOCA 60 that forced him to return to the start port of Les Sables D’Olonne five days into the race.
The twenty-strong shore crew has been working flat out on the repairs to Beyou’s state-of-the-art foiling IMOCA 60 since it arrived back in France on Saturday afternoon.
The understandably emotional skipper received a warm welcome from well-wishers and this – he said at today’s press conference – contributed to his desire to return to the race.
Providing the repairs are completed effectively on time Beyou said he plans to leave on the afternoon tide tomorrow (Tuesday November 16) some time after 1500 local in France.
Beyou, who was the outstanding favourite to win the race hit a floating object on Charal on the third evening of the race. The impact damaged one of Charal’s rudders, its mounting and control mechanisms, he broke a backstay and there was sundry composite damage to the deck of his IMOCA.
A round the clock team effort by up to 20 people who worked flat out since the bitterly disappointed Beyou docked his boat back in Les Sables d’Olonne on Sunday afternoon has returned the boat to 100% of its potential, according the solo racer who finished third on the last Vendée Globe.
Speaking to an on line conference media from his apartment in Les Sables d’Olonne he said,
“It’s strange to be replying to your questions when I am away from my boat, Charal. But I’ll soon be back there, as thanks to the work carried out after the past few days, we now know the boat will be ready tomorrow morning and ready to take off on the tide in the afternoon. It is excellent news. I would like to thank the whole team, as they have given it their all since I arrived back here in Port Olona.” He said,
“The Vendée Globe is a team effort and if everyone pulls together, we can work miracles.”
He explained, “The main problem, the one that made me turn back, was the issue with the rudder. Technically, however the most problematic to repair was the traveller, but actually it was the rudder mounting and the control arm which had broken, and it is a structural part of the boat.
“We had to survey the damage first to see where the water had leaked in to and up to where. We needed to repair this on both sides. We had to work with a whole series of experts to figure this out and all within the time constraints. We also had some wind vane issues, main sail damage from the series of gybes when the rudder hit something.”
He repeated, “I really have to thank the whole team.”
Beyou has been locked down in isolation with his partner since arriving back in Les Sables d’Olonne. He purposely detached himself from all race updates and social media.
“It was very hard for me to not be there (during the repairs) but also I had to take my head out of the race and I did not look at the rankings, shut out and did not look at any social media, all this whilst I was trying to stay close to my team and support them remotely. Since the start we have been working as a very close-knit team.”
“On the first night they said they sent me a message to say that they did not think they would manage to fix it within the time limit. But deep down I knew they would. So it was probably a good thing that I was not with them so I could get time to recover and really figure out the whole meaning behind the project, how everyone feels about it, the public, the Charal employees, the press, friends…”
He continued, “I just did not answer any messages, but I knew that I had to go back to the race. I did hear about Nico’s dismasting and I know I said I cut myself out of the race coms, but I did hear and I am so so sorry for him and his whole team. I know how much energy it takes to do a Vendée Globe and what is needed to get a project off the ground and going.”
“There were 10 to 15 people who put all their combined talent efforts together to get the job done. The architects from VPLP, Gurit composites, Manu Le Borgne, ehind them you have the logistics team, the team who did the hardware components, the splicing and ropeworks guys, the team at North Sails ready to do repairs to the main sail, Pixel electricians. The list is endless.
“When I got to the pontoon the other day and saw what a team of experts was there waiting, I said to myself, my goodness! You also feel you need to be there and to be on site and respect all the work that has been done, that is being done and you just have to go.”
“I have often said that the Vendee Globe is a race that is carried out by a team, and here you go, that is demonstrated by these people. Miracles can happen when you really try.”
Speaking about leader Alex Thomson he said, “I am happy for Alex being in the lead, I know he has a really good boat, and I am happy for him. He did a great move a few days ago. All I know is that Jean was in the lead for a bit and now that Alex is leading the charge. I did just tried to disconnect a bit.”
“After all that we will see what happens back on the sea. I really prefer to have no expectations, I don’t want to set any goals. I don’t know what we will discover. So we will see.”
Main image © Olivier Blanchet/Alea