local knowledgeOcean Racing

bloody tuesday

AFP photographer Jean-Sebastien Evard had another view of the Spindrift 2 versus Volvo Ocean Race RIB incident, and it differs from that of the Spindrift in several ways; first, that the RIB was stationary (though the prop wash in several pics calls that into question), and second, that the trimaran was under reduced sail (a photo and caption in his original story show a full main and solent).  Our thoughts go out to everyone effected by this horrific accident, and most especially to the woman fighting for her life in a hospital.  We have little doubt that phone videos and viewer accounts will help pin down the chain of events leading to this one and lay blame where it belongs, but for now, positive thoughts or prayer are in order.

Read the full account in French here.

This is the start of the ninth and final stage of the Volvo Ocean Race, a prestigious sailing race around the world for monohulls. The Spindrift 2 is not among the competitors. But the boat in Lorient as home port, and it is traditional tall ships attend the race starts when they take place at home.

I find myself on a press boats with three other photographers and two pilots. The weather is beautiful, the working conditions are ideal. Before launching out to sea towards Gothenburg, the end point of the race in Sweden, the Volvo Race yachts must carry a small race course near Lorient.

The media boat on which I find myself took position at the limit of the exclusion zone strictly limited by the organizers not to hinder competitors near the starting line. There are always many people on the water on racing days. Several organizer boats are there to prevent boaters and jet skis that swarm around the perimeter to venture into forbidden.

I see the Spindrift 2 going to the starting line. Almost stopped, the boat turns to port and picks up speed. He heads straight for the marshal boats. Immediately, the maneuver seems dangerous. This trimaran is a real Formula 1 of the sea, with great sailing, unheard-of acceleration and tremendous inertia. The helmsman does not have a good view.   The Spindrift 2 is like a big ship, difficult to maneuver down the track towards a stopped marshal boat.  The boat driver knows that if he advances, his boat will pass under the hull of the trimaran. It seems paralyzed, like us, on board the press boat.

The scene lasts only three or four seconds. The shock is inevitable. I see the RIB occupants jump overboard in panic.  Life jackets inflate automatically on contact with water. One of the rudders of the trimaran hits with full force the side of the RIB, making a frightening noise that sounds like “tac”.  A woman is launched violently into the water. I am the only photographer on board the press boat to have the reflex to whip my camera into place and take 15 continuous images.  Why? I do not know … I have not had time to understand what happened.

Immediately, our skipper rushes to the scene of this rare accident, thirty or forty meters from us. But we will not have to intervene: In seconds, two National Rescue Society boats are already there and take things in hand.

A huge bloodstain slowly spreads in the sea near the RIB. After twenty minutes, a helicopter arrives, hoisting the victim aboard.  She looks in very bad shape…

Full google trans here.