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Capsize at Cape Horn

While much of the sailing world has been focused on François Gabart and his incredible round-the-world record attempt, it’s been easy to overlook fellow French multihull sailor Yves le Blevec. The skipper of the Ultim’ trimaran Actual, le Blevec left France on November 24 to embark on a similar — though very different — voyage. Attempting to set a new world record the ‘wrong way’ around the world, Yves’ planned route was to descend the Atlantic, then turn right at Cape Horn and continue westward — as opposed to the more traditional eastward downwind romp through the Roaring Forties and the Southern Ocean.

Yves le Blevec’s world record attempt ended yesterday when his trimaran flipped near Cape Horn. He had rounded the Cape east to west on Wednesday night.

© 2017 Armada de Chile

Unfortunately for Yves, he capsized just after rounding Cape Horn, sailing upwind, when a crossbeam broke. Sailing hard upwind on a starboard tack, allegedly with three reefs in the mainsail and a small jib, Actual broke in 50+ knots of Southern Ocean breeze and seas to 20 feet. When the beam broke and the hull went from vertical to horizontal, the big tri went over, likely similar in many respects to the ill-fated Artemis Racing AC72’s structural failure and capsize in San Francisco Bay in the lead-up to America’s Cup 34. Fortunately for Yves, he was unharmed during the ordeal and remained calm while waiting for rescue. A cruise ship, the Stella Australis, diverted course to the scene to intervene if necessary, while Yves was eventually plucked from his overturned trimaran by a helicopter from the Chilean coast guard.

Assets in place for the rescue of the French sailor.

© Armada de Chile
Le Blevec safely back on terra firma with his Chilean rescuers.

© Armada de Chile

Actual (formerly Thomas Coville’s Sodebo) is a sistership to Sidney Gavignet’s old Oman Air Majan that suffered the same fate in 2010 when a crossbeam broke, sending the boat over. Actual’s third sistership is Francis Joyon’s old IDEC 2, which set many world records including the solo, nonstop record which was just broken last year by Thomas Coville on Sodebo Ultim’ (that record should fall this weekend to François Gabart). The design of these boats, penned by Nigel Irens and Benoit Cabaret, is long, lightweight and skinny by today’s standards. For her 100-ft length, she’s just 54 feet wide and weighs just 11.5 tons, compared with the new breed of VPLP trimarans, which are 70+ feet and weigh 14.5 to 15.5 tons. This writer isn’t a naval architect, but in a world where width = righting moment and stability, we can see why a skinny design would help this boat go the way of the dinosaur.

Actual in happier times, sailing in the Transat Jacques Vabre.

© Thierry Martinez / Sea & Co.

The Actual team is organizing efforts to attempt to salvage the boat, but with the nature of the damage, her geographically distant location from the team’s base in France, and a design that has been left behind by modern yacht design, one must question if the potential reward is worth the effort.

For those keeping score at home, two-time Vendée Globe podium finisher Jean-Luc Van Den Heede still holds the solo, westabout circumnavigation record with a time of 122 days, 14 hours, 3 minutes, set in 2004 onboard a monohull named Adrien.

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