17 December 2020 - 16:20 • 17214 views

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Louis Burton, the solo skipper of eighth placed Bureau Vallée 2, plans to stop to make repairs at the tiny, remote Macquarie Island in the Southwestern Pacific this weekend. The 15 miles long island is close to his route eastwards and a short parenthesis, he hopes, would allow him to climb his mast and make repairs to his mast track and to the other damages which are compromising his speed potential.

Burton, 35, from Saint Malo was up in second place chasing leader Charlie Dalin just 11 days ago but problems with his autopilots caused a wipeout gybe which caused a series of damages. His other problems besides the mainsail track which has required him to sail since then with  two reefs in his main, he has problems with his halyard hooks, his J2 is damaged. And so, frustrated by his inability to push his boat hard to stay with the group of five boats he is racing close to, he has decided that his best option is to halt briefly. He must do so unassisted and so anchoring can be an extremely hazardous operation. If a mooring exists he may attach himself to it but again he has to do so entirely on his own.

The island is a valued UNESCO World Heritage site and is considered part of Tasmania. It is extremely sensitive from an ecological point of view not least as it Is home to the entire royal penguin population during their annual nesting season. It is part of the Antipodes Subantarctic Islands tundra ecoregion. IN 1997 it became a UNESCO World Heritage site  of major geoconservation significance, being the only place on earth where rocks from the earth's mantle are being actively exposed above sea-level. The Australian Antarctic Division has a permanent base there, home to between 20 and 40 people.

Louis Burton, contacted this morning explained this morning: “I shall be stopping off Macquarie Island, as I need to climb to the top of the mast with the mainsail down. I have tried several times, but the problem is there is always a residual swell and because I had to get the mainsail down on the deck, there was no support and I got whacked in the face each time. So it was impossible. My idea is to go and shelter to the east of Macquarie Island, which is 300 metres high in some places, so that should protect me from the wind and swell. I shall be arriving from the north sailing straight along it close to the coast, just with my J3 so that I can go up the mast to cut away the mast track, which is damaged and then replace it. Then, I’ll climb to the very top, as the hooks are broken. I shall be setting up attachment points to fix a classic halyard for the mainsail, so that I will be able to use my mainsail correctly. The island is 15 miles long, so if I take it slowly, that should give me three hours. It is a well-protected animal reserve with some very rare species. If I can avoid having to drop anchor in the bay, it would be better. I think I should be able to carry out this work between Saturday evening and Sunday morning. I can only use my mainsail with two reefs. I should be able to hoist it a bit more, but as the track has pulled away, I can’t tauten it. It’s like a sack of tatties. It’s horrible, as I can’t get my speed up. At the worse, I’ll lose 4-5 hours, but afterwards, I should get a boat that is more or less operational again.”