26 December 2016 - 14:00 • 17498 views



The skipper of Compagnie du Lit-Boulogne Billancourt, under jury rig since dismasting, has picked up 200 litres of diesel thanks to the crew of the cargo vessel, Captain J. Neofotisto.

Excellent news for Stéphane Le Diraison. Thanks to some help from Alan Nebauer, the Vendée Globe contact in Australia, and the Australian MRCC, a refuelling operation was carried out yesterday and Stéphane Le Diraison was able to pick up 200 litres of diesel to allow him to sail towards the coast. This operation was made possible thanks to the help of a few memebrs of Stéphane's team, the boat captain Antoine Rioux and his team manager Olivier Carage.

"The operation was well prepared and everything went smoothly and safely,” explained Stéphane Le Diraison in an e-mail where he thanked Alan Bauer and the captain of the bulk carrier Captain J. Neofotisto, a 229m long vessel which weighs almost 80,000 tonnes. It was preferable for Stéphane, to be able to use his engine rather than have to rely on his jury rig, which only flies 16 square metres of sail, as this would not have allowed him to manoeuvre easily close to the coast.This operation is very similar to the one carried out by Mike Golding in 2008. The British skipper also picked up 200 litres of fuel from the frigate, HMAS Arunta, the very same ship that went to rescue Yann Eliès after his accident in that race.

Stéphane Le Diraison’s first words following this successful operation: “Finally, I’m making progress, which is a relief. But the waves are still rolling me like crazy. There is only a two-metre swell, but the boat is so stiff without its mast that the movement is horrible.I’m finding it hard to follow my route. I’m at 60 degrees to the wind and I can’t do any better. The problem is that the wind is going to strengthen and become a header. In 24 hours from now, I’ll have to decide whether to continue to Melbourne or head for Portland. Before that the route will be the same anyway and I can’t head up any more.”

The situation is also under control for the two other boats whose skippers recently retired. Paul Meilhat (SMA) is now only 650 miles from Tahiti and conditions are enabling him to keep up good average speeds of 14 or 15 knots. In a couple of days he will be approaching the French Polynesian islands. As for Le Souffle du Nord pour le Projet Imagine, Thomas Ruyant’s very damaged boat, she has been taken to Dunedin on the east coast of South Island, New Zealand.


Bruno Ménard / M&M