DRAMATIC SEA RESCUE ENDS FIRST ARAB BOAT HOPES
Skipper Sidney Gavignet safe after Oman Air almost capsized
After a long night for the Oman Air Majan team, they are pleased to report that skipper Sidney Gavignet is now safely onboard the bulk carrier Kavo Alexander. The incident which occurred at 1635 CET yesterday (03.11.10) was dealt with swiftly by the shore team, race management and rescue team who ensured Sidney’s rescue within four hours or his initial call.
Wednesday afternoon (03.11.10) at 1648 CET (GMT+1) skipper Sidney Gavignet reported that he had sustained substantial damage to the leeward front beam. Oman Air Majan was sailing in 20 knots of wind, upwind and the conditions were not extreme.
“I was going upwind, and I had two reefs in the mainsail, and a J2 sail up. The wind was increasing and planned to increase a little bit over the next few hours, but I was happy that it was still safe for the boat. It was daylight and I was well rested. Everything was fine, I thought nothing was damaged on the boat at that time and so far it was a good race on that side. Oman Air Majan jumped off of a wave, and hit the next one and I heard a crack. I thought it was the daggerboard. I came on deck and looked around, and I saw that the front leeward crossbeam was probably one metre away from the floats and the crossbeam was broken. It then went very, very quick, in probably 2 to 3 seconds I was easing the traveller and the float broke away from the crossbeam and because the front leeward side of the boat was not linked to the float the boat almost capsized, the mast was horizontal in the water and platform vertical”
Sidney quickly activated his distress beacon (this beacon allows the boat or skipper to be tracked via satellite) and moved to the main central hull to put on his survival suit. Sidney assessed the situation outside.
“I was pretty disorientated at that time but the damage was done so my first concern was to find my survival suit, liferaft and grab bag, which I found very quickly. I then I realized in fact there was no massive panic as is was clear that the boat would stay afloat, and I was safe inside the boat”
Sidney called Oman Air Majan shore coordinator Seb Chernier to explain the situation, and told him he would activate the EPIRB (emergency beacon). Talking after the event, “I had run through a safety de-brief with the Oman Air Majan team before leaving St.Malo so it was fresh in my mind and I think that helped me control the situation around me. I didn’t want to go out of the companion way too much, because I thought it was a bit dangerous. I thought about cutting the rigging to let go of the mast, but the problem is to do that you need to cut many cables and some were attached to the free float which was partially detached from the boat)”.
Route du Rhum race director Jean Maurel race director called CROSS (French organization for safety at sea) who contacted Sidney via his iridium phone (satellite phone) and logged the position of Oman Air Majan in the Atlantic.
Sidney received a call form the Portuguese rescue organization who asked if he was ready to leave the boat. “My first answer was yes, but after they asked me the question I was concerned, I thought is this really the right thing to do. But it was the correct decision as there was nothing more I could do on the boat”.
1800 – 1900 CET
A bulk carrier called Kavo Alexander contacted Sidney onboard Oman Air Majan via VHF and coordinated the rescue. The crew lowered a small rescue boat into the water, and Sidney stepped into his own emergency liferaft. “Before leaving the boat I made sure that all the emergency beacons were switched on so we could track Oman Air Majan”. Conditions were relatively calm for the rescue.
Oman Air shore team received confirmation that Sidney Gavignet was safe onboard the bulk carrier. Sidney speaking from onboard after the rescue, “For them it’s a risky situation and the people were great, it was quite dangerous when we had to climb in the small rescue boat, they risked their life for me and I can’t thank them enough for that, but I’m not feeling very proud about putting them in that situation that at the moment”.
The Kavo Alexander is en route to Turkey, and it is not confirmed if Sidney will be dropped off in Gibraltar or Malta, this is still to be confirmed, with an approximate ETA between the 06.11.10 and 09.11.10 . The Oman Air Majan technical team drove through the night from the base in Lorient to Paris and boarded a flight to the Azores early this morning (04.11.10), and are due to arrive in Horta early in the afternoon around 1400 CET. A boat is on standby and ready to leave with the team to take them to Oman Air Majan, which is still being tracked by the team and is approximately 250 miles north east of the Azores.
The technical team are monitoring the weather, conditions are good and the forecast looks set to improve over the next 24 - 36 hours. It will take approx 24 hours for the technical team to reach Oman Air Majan by boat, during that time they will be preparing a plan to recover as much of the boat as possible. At this time the team believe that all parts of the boats are still together and they will plan to tow the boat back to the Azores.
Oman Air Majan was launched in September 2009, it is the first ever ocean racing boat assembled in the Middle East in Oman's southern city of Salalah. Oman Air Majan was one of the most seamanlike multihulls in the Ultimate Class, the boat has been sailed over 40,000 miles (this is the equivalent to almost 2 laps of the planet) in the build up to this event through some of the most testing conditions on the planet, both fully crewed and single handed with Sidney onboard. This project has seen Oman Sail move into the world of offshore sailing, and a key part of this project are the Omani team who have been working on the boat and as part of the crew since the very beginning. Mohsin Al Busaidi became the first ever Arab to sail around the world non stop in March 2009 and he has been a training partner alongside Sidney as they prepared for the Route du Rhum.
“This has been an invaluable experience for me, offshore racing is the most challenging and demanding sailing you that can do. It requires great seamanship and knowledge. I have learnt so much from Sidney and have gained crucial experience of this professional and technical world. These boats are incredibly technical and are at the cutting edge of design, which could easily be compared to the world of Formula 1. Oman Air Majan was constructed at the very highest level and the whole team have worked hard to ensure that the boat was 110 % prepared before the start of this race. We are very sad to hear the news but it is good that Sidney is safe and the technical team now have their own mission to work to save Oman Air Majan ,“ Mohsin Al Busaidi.
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