The Route des Princes multihull race was the setting for a spectacular capsize by the race leader.
The 70-footer Spindrift capsized June 22 on the first leg of the event’s inshore races in Dún Laoghaire, Ireland. The 3,045-nautical-mile race, making its debut this year, features a mix of inshore and offshore racing in Valencia, Spain; Lisbon, Portugal; Dún Laoghaire; Plymouth, England; and France’s Bay of Morlaix.
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“We had 22 to 24 knots of wind on the start line, with gusts of up to 30 knots at the lower end of the course. We were at the limit of weather conditions for our boats, and it was not great for racing,” Yann Guichard, skipper of the MOD70 Spindrift, said after capsizing. “All the MODs had one reef in the main and staysail. We started a bit below and behind the fleet, and found ourselves slightly in a wind shadow. When our rivals had moved away, we had a sudden gust [that] literally flattened us.
"I was unable to do anything at the helm. The boat was turned over with a single blow,” Guichard said in a team statement.
The gust was estimated to be 32 knots. “We let out the staysail immediately, but it was too late, as it all happened in a split second. The boat was lifted onto the port float and went over. [My brother] Jacques was with me in the cockpit, and we found ourselves in the net. ... We managed to get out and then were airlifted.”
There was one injury among the seven-man crew — Jacques Guichard suffered a fractured pelvis. The trimaran was towed to port.
Racing was canceled the day after the accident because of high winds (40-knot gusts) on Dublin Bay, and the Spindrift team was unable to make repairs in time to participate when racing resumed in light winds June 24 with an offshore run to Plymouth. The team retired from the race.
“We are very disappointed to have to stop when we were doing so well,” Spindrift skipper Guichard said on the team website. “We will be itching to go when we see the other teams leave this morning for the offshore leg, but that is life. … It is a mechanical sport and we know that this can happen.”
The Route des Princes forces crews to play a game of cat and mouse with the vagaries of the Mediterranean Sea, the Portuguese trade winds, Atlantic depressions, the Irish and British coasts, and the French Finistère coast.