Following a violent collision last Wednesday evening, British Vendee Globe skipper Sam Davies (Initiatives-Cœur) sustained significant damage to the framework supporting the keel of her IMOCA. In consultation with her team, she made the decision to stop in Cape Town (South Africa).This morning as she arrived in Cape Town she confirmed by video at 0900hrs UTC that she is officially retiring from the race. But she says she is determined to return - after making repairs with her team and experts - to complete the race course as 'hors course', unclassified on the solo race which forbids any kind of outside assistance.
Sam hopes to complete the round the world voyage outside of the context of the race for her own benefit and for the children concerned by the 1 click=1 heart campaign. 28 children have so far been saved since the start of the Vendée Globe.
It did not seem reasonable to continue the voyage in the Southern Ocean with a boat that could not be guaranteed to be entirely safe. By stopping for repairs and taking the boat out of the water in South Africa, the Vendée Globe rules mean that she has required assistance and has therefore retired from the race. The adventure is however not over, as it is important for Sam to complete the voyage.
‘I had gybed behind the front in 30 knots of wind. I was sailing on tricky seas at a speed between 15 and 22 knots. I hit something and it felt as if I had run aground on a rock, as I came to a sudden standstill. There were cracking noises. I went flying along with everything in the boat including my dinner. It was violent and I hurt myself. But I was lucky, as it could have been much worse, but my ribs hurt. I immediately brought down the sail to stop the boat. I hit an unidentified floating object. I immediately took a look at the keel, as I knew it wasn’t the foil but the keel that had been hit.
The bearings and forward and aft bulkheads in the keel housing are in good shape, but the longitudinal bulkheads are cracked. That is what absorbed the shock. I checked everything and contacted my team and they have been working with the designers. It happened at night, as it always does with this sort of problem. It was pitch black when I checked everything. It was the same when I lost my mast (in the 2012-2013 Vendée Globe). I did what I could in 30 knots of wind in mountainous seas. The collision shifted the keel ram protection which ensures a watertight seal between the keel housing and the ram. Consequently, I was taking water aboard, which required my immediate attention. I put the pump on to empty the water entering the keel housing.
Davies said this morning, “It’s too dangerous to enter the Southern Ocean with all these things wrong with the boat. You really have to inspect everything. I think that is also the magic of the Vendée Globe: the race stops but I hope the adventure does not end here. I've always said my mission is to sail around the world on this boat. For me, but also for Initiatives-Cœur, to support cardiac surgery for the kids. If I can fix the boat and go, I'm motivated to do it. This is the positive side of the story, I still have a mast, I still have my keel! I have all the pieces, I have a great team. It will probably take time, it’s a big job but I’m very positive to give it a go as Isabelle Autissier did. I think hers is a really good example, to try to keep going anyway.
If the boat is repairable, I am determined to go again. It’s my philosophy and that of the team. The Vendée Globe is a huge adventure. I've always had a lot of respect for those who ended up out of the race. Isabelle Autisier, but also Enda (editor's note O'Coineen), I think he was the last person to do that, long after Nick Moloney had his accident. I have a lot of respect for that, I think it's part of the adventure. If I can be one of those adventurers, I want to be, although it’s not easy because I’m a competitor with a great boat. But I am also an adventurer, passionate about the sea and the oceans, and I want to save children with Initiatives-Cœur.
Everyone knows from the start that this kind of thing can happen. And then I have already dismasted in a Vendée Globe. However, three days ago when this happened to me, I thought I was going to die but once I got through the crisis I thought I was going to stop sailing. I thought to myself: "This is stupid, this is nonsense to stop sailing, I don't want to do that.”
“ These are the ups and downs of the race, it’s adventure. If I can manage to set off again and continue with this great project anyway. In my opinion, I'm not going to go very fast but I need to go back to rebuild myself after something like this. I’m not the only one to arrive in Cape Town, I’m in contact with Seb Simon, I think we’ll shed some tears into our beer. I have a big thought for him giving up for the same problem. Bad luck, he had a great race. And a second thought for Isa Joschke. When I hit my UFO I was at a standstill, stationary, I had collision alarms sounding it was Isa Joschke who was coming right at me right on me, that was a second fright, I was afraid she wouldn't see me. I had a little stressed conversation with her about avoiding me! I'm super happy for her because she's having a really good race. We were really close to each other, she did a nice comeback, I'm happy because she's normally one of my regatta colleagues. Come on Isa, I'm fully behind you! "