Circumnavigation: In battle with the sea and the rules


In battle with the sea and the rules

The sailors of the Vendee Globe, the toughest regatta in the world, have been on the road since November. Eight out of 20 participants dropped out. Must the regulations be changed?

E.r is still on his boat, the Cheminees Poujoulat. Alone. Day and night. Since November 10th last year, he has only had one goal in mind: at the Vendee Globe, the toughest regatta ever, after circumnavigating the world, Les Sables d’Olonne in France, the starting point of the race.

He still does not lose sight of the goal, Cape Horn is behind him, he has been sailing the oceans for around 70 days, and the Swiss Bernard Stamm has meanwhile been disqualified. However, Stamm continues to sail, but struggles with the jury’s decision. He does not recognize the reason for his punishment.

Even if the disqualification is withdrawn, he will not be included in the official ranking. Because in the meantime, Stamm had to take over a few liters of diesel from another ship. He accepts this rule violation: Electricity for the autopilot, drinking water supply and navigation are essential for him.

Morally, however, the Swiss are on the ground. He started for the third time at the Vendee Globe and failed for the third time. Many years of preparation for the tough race were in vain. Four years ago, at the previous event, the Swiss had to watch his racing yacht crash into cliffs.

The 49-year-old tribe is the tragic figure of the 7th Vendee Globe, where you have to sail one-handed, non-stop and without outside help. But Stamm also exemplifies the weaknesses of the Tour of Torments at Sea. His fate should lead to rule changes the next time the race is held.

There is a rule violation?

Stamm didn’t hit it until after the most difficult phase of the race, behind Cape Horn. Allegedly he should have accepted foreign help at sea. On December 23 In a bay near New Zealand a crew member of the Russian research vessel “Professeur Khoromov” entered the “Cheminees Poujoulat”. Stamm had moored at short notice to the research ship out of concern about his racing yacht, which was anchored in onshore wind. Just the fact that someone entered his boat was considered to be a violation of the rules.

Not even his competitors believe that this gave him an advantage. Rather, all skippers expressed their disappointment about Stamm’s disqualification and rather saw his legitimate right to avert damage to himself and his ship.

For Stamm, the decision of an international jury was like a blow. In the meantime he was even in the lead at the Vendee Globe. But his problem had long been that his hydrogen generators were no longer fully functional. After a collision at sea with an unknown object, they then completely failed.

Stamm generated electricity on board with the generators. The associated failure of the water analyzer was particularly tragic. In collaboration with the Oceanopolis Institute from Brest, it is supposed to provide important information about plankton, temperature, salinity and other information. “These values ​​are so important to us, especially on this seldom traveled route,” says eric Hussenot, director of the institute.

The environmentally friendly generation of electricity was fatal for the Swiss, thanks to a simple component. The suspension of the generators did not withstand the adversities at sea. Stamm was furious when he realized that after the collision at sea, the race was over for him.

Alex Thomson managed the repair

He is also to be partly to blame, because during the intensive training to prepare for the Vendee Globe, the Swiss would probably have recognized the problem himself, even if the system is still new. A problem that other sailors also had to grapple with, such as the Briton Alex Thomson. He, too, struggled for several days to repair the vital hydro-generators. He was also threatened with extinction because in the meantime his electricity reserves had melted down to almost zero.

But unlike Stamm, the British managed to repair it. But Stamm had to take diesel fuel on board in order to generate electricity. Now he only sails out of competition. “My mast is still up and the keel holds too. I just had this stupid technical problem, ”says Stamm.

The leading ships such as “Macif” or “Banque Populaire” also opted for the new, environmentally friendly technology for generating energy. “You can choose between around 200 to 300 liters for the diesel generator, but that also means additional weight. Or solar cells, which don’t generate that much electricity, and the new hydrogenators, ”says Armel Le Cleac’h from the“ Banque Populaire ”. The models used are identical on all ships, only the attachment to the stern is solved differently.

If the rules are interpreted as narrowly as the Swiss, then it is difficult to understand that, for example, additional weather information, i.e. beyond the daily weather report from the race management, can get on board without control via the Internet or satellite phone.

Advantages through private weather routing

Such weather routing is undoubtedly a competitive advantage, but the race management sees no need for action here. At least not yet, because this topic will probably only be discussed intensively after the race. If that doesn’t happen, the consequences could be massive. Sponsors could react with disinterest in the future due to the increasing incalculability.

If future races are decided on the basis of questionable jury decisions instead of on the water, there could be disputes like in the America’s Cup and the Vendee Globe could be permanently damaged.

No storm, no meter-high waves, not even a self-performed dental operation could stop Bernard Stamm. “But without enough energy, a race is impossible to sail,” says Stamm. And: “I’m giving up the race, but I don’t feel disqualified.” The French will still celebrate him in Les Sables, even if he doesn’t appear in the results lists. He deserves the applause.

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