Rescue for GGR’s Lepage 210 nm away–water rushing into yacht

Loïc Lepage’s dismasted yacht Laaland is taking on more water, but the Golden Globe Race (GGR) sailor, who pulled his emergency beacon, an EPIRB, on UTC 16:30 October 20, 2018, has rescuers on his way. SV Alizes II skipper Francis Tolan is 210 nautical miles north northwest of Lepage on early October 21, 2018, UTC. Originally, Lepage was taking on 30 liters (8 gallons) of water per hour, but that leak has intensified and he says that the boat is taking on 160 liters (40 gallons) per hour. That puts Tolan one-to-two days away from Lepage’s striken yacht. The Joint Rescue Coordination Center (JRCC) in Australia has also diverted the Japanese-flagged, 289-meter cargo ship to Lepage’s position roughly 600 nautical miles southwest of Perth, Australia. Both the 289-meter cargo ship and the 43-foot sailboat are due to arrive at Lepage’s 32-foot yacht on local time Tuesday, October 23, 2018.

waterrushing

Caption: 2018 Golden Globe Race – Loïc Lepage (FRA) Nicholson 32 Laaland passing through the Marina Rubicon ‘Gate’ off Lanzarote in the Canaries. Credit: Christophe Favreau/PPL/GGR

The French sailor Lepage has been unable to fully cut away his mast and rigging contrary to earlier reports posted on the GGR Facebook page. In a more recent post GGR wrote, “JRCC Australia Challenger aircraft flew Overhead Loic Lepage today and spoke with him and observed the mast in the water acting as a sea anchor.” That implies that he has not set up a jury rig, because a sea anchor would defeat the purpose of setting a jury rig. Lepage has been able to start the engine after some early failures according to the GGR Facebook page. Nevertheless, the SV Laaland cannot speed its intercept with rescuers with the mast and sails dragging in the water.

Below is the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) JRCC’s plan for the rescue:

“EXECUTION:

15. JRCC AUSTRALIA INTENDS TO UTILISE SHIOSAI/3FHW5 AND SV ALIZES II AS SURFACE RESCUE ASSETS. IT IS THE INTENTION TO DETERMINE THE BEST RESCUE ASSET TO CONDUCT THE TRANSFER OF LOIC FROM LAALAND/F4KKR IN DUE COURSE, DEPENDANT UPON WEATHER CONDITIONS ON-SCENE AND RELATIVE ETA’S OF RESCUE ASSETS ON-SCENE. JRCC AUSTRALIA INTENDS TO KEEP STOKER/VJN4918 ON STAND-BY UNTIL AM MON 22 OCT 18 WHEN A DECISION WILL BE MADE BASED ON A RE-ASSESSMENT OF WEATHER CONDITIONS AND THEN PROGRESS OF SHIOSAI/3FHW5 AND SV ALIZES II OVERNIGHT.

16. RAAF P8 CALLSIGN RSCU251 WILL FLY DIRECT FROM LEARMONTH TO THE DISTRESS POSITION WITH AN ETA OF 220030UTC OCT 18.

17. AMSA AIRCRAFT RSCU440, CIVILIAN AIRCRAFT VH-IEJ AND RSCU251 HAVE ALL BEEN TASKED TO PROVIDE AIR OVERWATCH AS REQUIRED FROM NOW UNTIL THE COMPLETION OF THE OPERATION. FURTHER SPECIFIC AIRCRAFT TASKINGS WILL BE PROVIDED WHEN CONFIRMED.”

Tolan’s yacht SV Alizes II is a 43-foot Oceanis sailboat from a competing solo-around the event to the 2018 Golden Globe Race, the Longue Route 2018. Tolan’s last port was Le Bono, France on June 18, 2018. The Longue Route commemorates Bernard Moitessier’s 1968 to 1969 trip from Plymouth, England to Tahiti, which involved going around the Southern Ocean one-and-a-half times solo-nonstop. The Longue Route website says it had seventeen participants departing from any Atlantic port above 45 degrees north.

That is almost identical to the eighteen participants that departed Les Sables-d’Olonne, France on July 1, 2018, in the 2018 solo-nonstop, unassisted Golden Globe Race for 32-to-36-foot sailboats. Only eight GGR skippers were still in the main race at the time of writing. Lepage was the only sailor in the Chichester class for boats that make one unsanctioned stop in Cape Town. Lepage ran out of drinking water, due to lack of rain showers experienced in the Doldrums and South East Trades. He also reported problems with his radio and was unable to pick up weather forecasts prior to stopping in Cape Town.

Most of the remaining participants in 32-to-36-foot sailboats in the GGR are less than half-way finished. Indeed, when Lepage set off his EPIRB, there were two participants that had been rescued (Abhilash Tomy and Gregor McGuckin) and two participants who set off EPIRB’s (Tomy and Lepage). Only one person had reached the half-way point (Jean-Luc Van Den Heede) in the Golden Globe Race when Lepage signaled for rescue. Since then, a second participant Mark Slatts had reached the half-way point in Hobart, Australia. Lepage’s boat is the third to be dismasted. All the dismastings have happened since the boats entered the stormy Southern Ocean which encompasses the south Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans.

Several other GGR 2018 skippers have recently faced voyage ending challenges, fourth place Susie Goodhall and second place Mark Slatts have sailed through violent cyclonic storms and been knocked down. Eighth place Russian skipper Igor Zaretskiy lost his forestay a few days ago, which could lead to loss of his yacht’s mast. The 1968 to 1969 Golden Globe Race only had one finisher out of nine participants.

Dr. Linus Wilson is the author of How to Sail Around the World Part-Time and two other sailing books. He holds a USCG “six-pack” captain’s license and is the creator of the Slow Boat Sailing YouTube Channel and Podcast.

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