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Limping Back To The Start: Converting n Ocean 50 Into A Proa


  • Limping Back To The Start: Converting An Ocean 50 Into A Proa

    On the 2nd day of the Transat Jacques Vabre, Luke Berry and Antoine Joubert suffered serious damage aboard their Ocean Fifty Le Rire Medecin Lamotte. We contacted Luke a few hours after he brought his injured trimaran back into the port of Saint Malo.

    Off the coast of the Iberian Peninsula, shortly after the start of the second stage of the Transat Jacques Vabre , Luke Berry dismasted and suffered serious damage to his trimaran Le Rire Medecin Lamotte. On his return from a delivery under makeshift rigging, he details the adventure and its explanations.

    Tell us the conditions of your damage . Has the cause been identified?

    "We don't yet know why it broke. The front arm broke and immediately led to the dismasting . It happened in 25-30 knots, so not too much wind, but big waves . We were under 2 reefs in the mainsail , and J3 at the front. We were a little down and we were going quite fast.

    Fortunately the mast fell, otherwise we would capsize.

    I was resting under the cap when it happened, and Antoine Joubert, my co-skipper, shouted that we had dismasted. We didn't realize right away that the float was gone. The stress mounted quite quickly. We moved from a racing mindset to a need to bring the boat back.

    We secured the different pieces as much as possible, while keeping dangerous elements far from the central hull. We called the race management, then we contacted Adrien Hardy on his support trimaran Merida, who was nearby. It arrived two hours after the damage , which is very fast."

    How did the rescue operation go?

    "The Merida arrived at night, and we waited until sunrise to begin operations. I salute the ingenuity and commitment of Adrien’s team. Everyone was in the same state of mind as us, namely to save as many elements as possible.

    The float was only held together with the remains of the trampoline, which had to be cut up. The mast gave us a problem because it was half submerged. Adrien dived in a tank to a depth of 3 meters to attach an inflatable balloon with a hoist to the masthead.

    We gradually took all the sails out of the water. There remained 7 m of mast in the water, and the team raised the rail carriages axis by axis to separate the mainsail from the mast."

    Arrival at the port of Viveiro

    "We had to act quickly, because a big depression was coming upon us. We headed for the coast in tow of the Merida, and towing our own float. We arrived at night in a port, Viveiro, which we did not know at all. We had a good soup on the Merida, before a short night's rest."

    How did you prepare for the return delivery with a trimaran on which a float is missing?

    "The next day, we went to the harbor master's office to explain our problems to them. They were super welcoming. They brought in an antique crane truck to help us.

    We made a point with the architects to know where to position it, and we secured the float on the boat. We balanced the masses to ensure that the proa could sail on both sides.

    We then assembled a makeshift rig with the remaining spars. A piece of mast was attached to the amputated arms, in order to maintain a certain rigidity. Care was taken to block the ends of the arms, which communicate directly with the central hull. Then, we waited for an ideal weather window.

    At the same time, we provided assistance to several crews still in the race to help them resolve their problems. For us, the race was over, but it felt good to support sailors who could still reach Martinique ."

    How did such navigation take place on a trimaran transformed into a proa?

    We left with a crew of three sailors. As soon as we left the port, we sent out all the sails we could, namely a Hobie Cat 15 mainsail, another Mini-Transat mainsail, and our J3 mounted upside down. We got shaken a little, but the boat reacted well.

    Downwind, it worked well. We had up to 25-30 knots, and our trimaran transformed into a proa peaked at 12 knots.

    In the slightly calmer phases, we pressed the engine. But it was very noisy, because the 30 horsepower engine of a racing trimaran is not soundproofed at all.

    Arriving at Pointe Bretagne , we passed Occidentale de Sein, which shook us up again. Then, after three days at sea, we reached the port of Saint-Malo .

    What’s next for the program?

    We are going to take the boat out to examine the structure. We have two things to see. We must understand the origins and verify the extent of the damage. We will work hand in hand with the architects and the composite team. Our boats are not insured for such damage, so we will have to find solutions to start the project.

    Of course, we are disappointed not to have finished the Jacques Vabre. But that only represents a tiny part of our sailing year. We didn't finish the last 8 days, but we were 3rd at the time of the breakage, and we came 2nd in the first stage. The results were there throughout the season, and we had 450 people sailing. We already have 25 partners united around a cause, and we hope to return to the water very quickly to defend it.

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