They break their Imoca 60. Two oceanic men safe after a scary night

©ThMartinez/Sea&Co.
©ThMartinez/Sea&Co.

Bernard Stamm and Damien Guillou had a really bad time. They were bringing the Imoca 60 Cheminées Poujoulat back from the Azores to France (after participating, finishing fourth, in the Transat Jacques Vabre) when weather conditions deteriorated. Winds between 43 and 45 knots and strong seas. In the middle of a wave, suddenly the hull broke and slowly began to go small. After an interminable night several rescue attempts went unsuccessful, the two sailors were finally rescued by a freighter. Here is the testimony Bernard Stamm gave to the French newspaper Voiles et Voiliers.

Damien and I were 200 miles from Cornwall and 180 nautical miles from Brest. There were between 43 and 45 knots of wind, but we were sailing nimbly on the carriers. We were prepared for this wind blow: we had the tormentor and four coats of terzaroli. We really had the handbrake on, but in one wave the boat broke in two, right in front of the dinghies. The tree did not fall immediately. We immediately closed all watertight hatches and immediately called for help, then organized to survive on board.
We managed to secure the mast so that it rested in the water and did not repeatedly hit the hull. We grouped all survival materials together. We did not even know how long the boat would stay afloat….

IMOCA CHEMINEES POUJOULAT / Bernard Stamm - Philippe Legros - fourth in IMOCA ranking, arrival in Itajai (Brazil) on november 24th, 2013.A Falcon 50 from Hyères Air Force Base arrived in the area around 11:30 p.m. He coordinated the rescue before being relieved by a maritime patrol plane around 6 a.m. Meanwhile, a rescue was attempted by a British helicopter. He asked us to put a raft in the water, but we could never get far enough away from the boat. It was too dangerous and we kept bumping into the hull. In the end, we were forced to board Cheminées Poujoulat, leaving almost all our water, survival equipment, phone, fires–in short, we shot ourselves a big one….

From the helicopter, we were suggested to swim to retrieve ourselves directly from the water. But that didn’t work either. Even worse, I really struggled to get back on board after this attempt.

Then, the freighter arrived and maneuvered to get alongside us. A line was thrown to us but we risked colliding against the side of the freighter. Cheminées Poujoulat kept sinking … the crew threw ina new line as we were about halfway down the side: we managed to catch it and lock the boat. They then threw a rope ladder at us, but it struck us violently.e. I went eighty meters into the water before I could retrieve the line. Damien swam alongside the freighter and eventually managed to grab on as well. It was really dangerous, because the sea was really strong and the boat now almost completely sunk. All that remained was a small part of the bow above the sea. A very painful image for me. The Filipino crew of the freighter MV Star Isfjpord who rescued us demonstrated exceptional mastery. I would like to thank them all. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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