Positioned some 180 nautical miles to the south east of Dunedin, New Zealand, O'Coineen, 60, was racing in 35kts of SSE wind when the rig broke. The skipper is uninjured and reported that he was starting to secure his boat and the broken pieces of the rig and planned to head to New Zealand which, in the current weather situation, is downwind for him. He has enough fuel to make landfall.
The skipper is in contact with his Technical Team and Race Management. A full assessment of his situation is being made and more details will be published later.
Contacted by Race HQ at 0930hrs UTC this morning O'Coineen explained:
“You roll the dice. I was caught a little bit unawares. I was in 20-25 kts of breeze and a very vicious 35kt squall came through and the self-steering malfunctioned just at the wrong moment. I did an involuntary gybe and then a gybe back. The boat was out of control and I was caught without the runner properly on and the mast snapped. I have to laugh because if I don't I will cry. The mast came clean off at the deck and in fact it was intact. But the whole rig went over the side. I had the difficult decision to make of whether to try and save the rig or whether to save the hull of the boat. I thought of safety first. I cut the rig free from the boat. I was worried that the stump of the rig would hole the boat. The seas were pretty wild. There was a big sea running. I cut the entire rig free. I am mastless, the deck was holed. It is not a happy situation but there it is, you roll the dice. That is the risk you take.
I am devastated. Things were going quite well. I was in good shape. Having got this far I felt we could handle anything. There was just that little malfunction of the self-steering that set a whole train in motion. I have to accept responsibility. What happens, happens.
Look, you have to be philosophical. This sort of sailing is living on the edge. I have been doing that for 57 days and as the fella says if you are living on the edge you are taking up too much space. I was taking up too much space on the edge.
Ironically I had just done a little interview with myself for New Year. I celebrated with a small bottle of champagne. My alter personality asked me about my New Year's Resolution. And my New Year's Resolution was to take less risk with my life. In business, in my life I have taken a lot of risk. The risk enabled me to make enough money to buy this boat. to pursue the dream, to pursue my adventure. The irony is that only two hours earlier I had recorded a video to pledge to take less risk. And here I am. Risk is a four letter word, like a lot of meaningful four letter words in the English language.
What can you do? I have acted responsibly.
It is January 1st. It is a New Day and a New Year and it is time to move on. My Vendée Globe is over. I am appreciative of all the support I have had. "