First alert 1020 GMT
At approximately 1020 GMT today, BT crew Sébastien Josse and Jean-François Cuzon have activated their EPIRB distress beacon after having suffered major damage following a night battling it out in fierce seas and winds reaching 60 knots at times. The skippers are in regular contact with Race Director Jean Maurel, and have reported significant damage to the coachroof, and water entering the boat. The MRCC are coordinating operations with the Transat Jacques Vabre Race Direction and the BT shore team, to ensure the safe recovery of the skippers. MRCC Falmouth confirmed that the RCC Azores was had sent a helicopter and a Navy vessel over to BT, whilst carrying out a satellite broadcast alert to shipping in the area.
This morning’s message sent by Jean-François Cuzon said it all, and takes its full measure in the light of this morning’s events. Having battled it out in waves reaching more than 8 metres of height, the BT boys were still ver confident this morning, so one can only imagine the shock it must have been for them to discover the damage. Here is what Jeff wrote, a few hours before all hell broke loose: “Impressive, the conditions are really hard on the water, 35 to 60 knots with a big swell (thankfully we are not upwind). Onboard BT, we just put our heads down and wait for better times, we just had a couple of gusts at 55 knots. Jojo has done a great job at the helm and we are now with only the main sail. We hope to get out of that terrible weather in the middle of the day.” With Veolia heading towards the Azores due to a torn mainsail track and Artemis also reporting a string of gear failures, last night’s storm took its toll on the fleet and BT certainly endured the nastiest blow, after having led for most of the race.
1400 GMT – Rescue boat 30 miles away
Jeff Cuzon spoke to Race Director Jean Maurel at 1325 GMT approximately, the situation is stable on board and both men are secure, calmly waiting for the rescue operation to unfold. A helicopter is currently refuelling and will depart to locate BT as soon as possible. Due to the conditions it might not be possible to recover the skippers by air. However, a rescue boat is 30 miles away from BT and making best speed towards BT. The crew still have their handheld Iridium satellite phone, and the EPIRB beacon is functioning properly, reporting BT’s position.
1705 GMT – Visual contact
The Ocean Explorer vessel, taking part in the rescue operation, made visual and VHF contact with the crew aboard the BT yacht…
1800 GMT – They’re safe!
After having considered all the options, decision was taken to use the helicopter aboard the Ocean Explorer and Seb and Jeff were lifted to safety and taken straight back to Terceira, in the Azores. A tugboat is now on standby, and all efforts will now be made to salvage the BT yacht. The technical team left the UK at midday and will arrive in the Azores this evening, with a planned departure Saturday morning to attempt to salvage the BT yacht. Currently the BT shore team have 15 minute position data from the yacht thanks to its tracker.
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