Groupama capsizes!

17 11 2009

groupamacapsizes.jpg

Groupama 3 has self-destructed and capsized in the Pacific Ocean. A disaster – but not a human tragedy, as all of the crew were safely airlifted to Dunedin on the south island of New Island. Fortunately, Groupama 3 was only 75 nautical miles east of Dunedin when the accident occurred.

This was the message that came off the boat soon after it turned over. “We have just capsized. The leeward float broke in two, leading to the breakage of the two beams and then the subsequent capsize. The crew is all together, taking refuge inside the central hull of Groupama 3. None of the 10 crew is injured. There are 5 to 7 metre waves and 25 to 30 knot winds. The seas are breaking and for the time being we’re not sending anyone outside.”

Watch leader Franck Proffit had spoken to the shore team a few hours earlier, explaining how carefully they were sailing the maxi-trimaran through rough seas. “We are in really built-up seas, with waves of six to seven metres. We can’t go down too far South as there are winds reaching 50 knots. We are therefore adopting a fairly northerly course as far as New Zealand, so as we can then gybe and move along nicely again.

“The Pacific should bode better for us,” continued Proffit, although it’s doubtful he feels so well disposed to the Pacific Ocean now. Proffit might also have changed his view of the big green boat since he said this: “Groupama 3 is very sound and she behaves exceptionally well in this type of sea; at the helm with 7 metre waves, the floats plunge and never bury into the waves.”

Immediately they were informed, the Gris-Nez rescue services in France alerted their New Zealand counterparts who immediately set about the rescue of the crew in the upturned main hull of Groupama 3. One plane and then two helicopters were sent to the rescue zone just three hours after the capsize. The 10 sailors were all airlifted by helicopter at 0330 (UT) and then brought safely to Dunedin, on New Zealand’s South Island. An amazing tribute to the efficiency of the New Zealand rescue services.

Team representative Vincent Borde told TheDailySail that the breakage was unrelated to a bulkhead which had broken in the forward beam. Skipper Franck Cammas has said the damage to the port float may have occurred due to waves breaking over the float just before they gybed the boat.

Now that the team has been rescued, Cammas is working on a plan to salvage what he can of his upturned maxi-trimaran.

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