Grueling ocean race loses another competitor - Soundings Online

Grueling ocean race loses another competitor

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Canadian sailor Derek Hatfield and French sailor Sébastien Josse officially retired Monday from the Vendee Globe around-the-world race, making them the 13th and 14th sailors to give up competing since the original 30 single-handing skippers set out Nov. 9 from Les Sables d’ Olonne, France, according to a recent press release.

Josse decided to head for Auckland,New Zealand, after his port rudder became damaged when BT, his 60-foot Bruce Farr-design racing sailboat, capsized in the Pacific Ocean a few days before his retirement announcement.

“The starboard rudder is undamaged, but the port rudder, which would have been fully exposed to the crashing waves when the boat was upside down, is badly damaged,” says Josse in a report to Sail-World.com. “This failure explains the misalignment of the whole steering system, preventing BT from sailing at more than 10 knots and making a passage of the Pacific Ocean one risk too far to take.”

No stranger to the race, Josse took fifth place in the 2005 edition and is disappointed to retire, but says he will be back again for the next quadrennial race, according to the press release.

Meanwhile, in the Indian Ocean, Hatfield finally succumbed to mast problems on Spirit of Canada, the first Canadian-built Open 60 and an Owen-Clarke design. He plans to sail back to Australia and figure out how to get the boat back to France.

“I was hoping I would wake up and it was all a bad dream,” says Hatfield on the Vendee Globe site (www.vendeeglobe.org). “It’s time to move on with a plan to move forward.”

The 2008 edition of Vendee Globe has been a gear-buster. Since November, almost half of the original racers have been forced to turn tail. Before Christmas, French sailor Yann Eliés was forced to retire after his boat was stuffed by a wave and he broke his femur. The MarineRescueCoordinationCenter, which is responsible for Australian waters, coordinated the Dec. 19 medevac. Around the same time, British sailor Mike Golding was dismasted while taking the lead near Australia.

The Vendee Globe, known as “The Everest of the Sea,” is well-known for being one of the most grueling ocean races. Fewer than 60 sailors have completed the race and, on average, only 40 percent of competitors finish, according to the Web site. This year’s winner will earn 150,000 euros, or about $190,000.

— Elizabeth Ellis