If the skipper of MERCI Sébastien Destremau looked a little tired and careworn today when he was introduced at the opening of the Race Village and the Vendée Globe pontoon it is because the French/Australian solo skipper has had to win a late and stressful battle to prove the reliability of his electric engine, ensuring that his boat falls in line with the IMOCA rules.
Stressful electric engine problems nearly cost Sébastien Destremau his place on the start line
In fact on Thursday, having failed the test because of a faulty battery, he had already been told he would not be allowed to take the start. And the deadline for handing in his IMOCA certification was Thursday October 15th at midday. He had already passed the required power test
Sébastien Destremau has already passed the power test by changing his propeller, and safety by changing some electrics. During his Wednesday evening test the batteries were unable to motor Merci for more than 2.15 hours much less from the 5 hours required, for a distance to be covered of 25 miles.
After successfully getting one final dispensation from the Vendée Globe race management - who largely remained sensitive to his case , not least because his were not structural problems - Destremau was able to change the lithium batteries and take a test again late on Friday night into Saturday and this time he was successful.
Destremau said on the pontoon today, “Now having passed, I am not concerned for my race. I understand the rule needs you to have an engine and I respect that and abide by the rules.”
His boat, which was previously Conrad Colman’s is the first to have sailed around the world without using fossil fuels.
“For me it was important to me to keep the environmental message.” Destremau commented, “We have new pack of batteries (since Conrad had the boat) and we have less storage so we were a bit short on power. But in truth it is my fault. I know that I have not had time to put enough energy into this project.”
“The rules are there and I respect them. Two days ago I was eliminated from the Vendée Globe because of that one battery. The decision was made but I begged them, saying ‘you want me out because of one battery? and they gave me a second chance. Jacques Caraes (Race Director) and Laura Le Goff (CEO of the Vendee Globe) have been fantastic. It is my fault. I wan’t to thank them for their hard work and giving me the chance.”