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Trans-At solo skipper abandons ship after striking marine animal

Rescue operation: Vincent Riou in life raft waiting for Loick Peyron/Gitana Eighty to rescue him

Loïck Peyron / Gitana SA

On Tuesday, the 10th day of sailing in the 12th quadrennial Artemis Transat, skipper Vincent Riou’s 60-foot vessel collided with an unidentified marine creature at 3 a.m., according to a race press release.

Riou, who was reportedly moving at 15 to 18 knots at the time, originally thought the damage was superficial. But later in the afternoon he realized one of his keel pins was missing and was being held in place only because it was canted and stuck. With a storm approaching, Riou decided not to risk it and decided to abandon ship. Fellow competitor Loick Peyron, one of the 12 other skippers, was directed to Riou by the race direction team and took him aboard his 60-foot Gitana Eighty at 5:25 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time, according to the report.

“I felt a shock, which didn’t worry me too much since it was violent but ‘soft’ — I didn’t hear any carbon crack,” says Riou about the hit. “I’m sure it was a shark, and I think I actually cut it in two since I saw two portions emerge at the back of the boat. “

Riou plans on salvaging the boat in the next two or three days, and is not allowed to help Peyron in any way with maneuvering his vessel, according to race regulations. The 13 skippers participating in the Artemis Transat race left Plymouth, England, May 11 bound for the finish line at Boston and Marblehead, Mass. Race officials believe if the storm isn’t too severe, the first vessels should be arriving this weekend. The race began in 1960 and is held every four years, sponsored by Britain’s Artemis Investment Management Limited. To track the remaining racers, visit

— Elizabeth Ellis