After Safran, Groupe Bel….a killer Vendée

Kito de Pavant, the skipper of Groupe Bel, hit by a trawler this morning off the coast of Portugal, officially announced his retirement to the Vendée Globe race organizers. The skipper is unharmed but his boat has suffered serious damage. It is ripped open on the port side, on the level of the outrigger and the bowsprit was torn off. The monohull is making progress towards the Cascais marina (Portugal), which he will reach this evening. Two members of the technical team are currently on site to welcome the devastated skipper and his boat. “The Vendée Globe stops here for me, for the Bel Group and all the people who followed me in this adventure, ” were Kito’s words, sent by video this afternoon, in which he shows the state of the boat.

A little earlier, Kito reconsidered what had happened on the phone: “We met a lot of boats all through the night. I kept watching out for cargo ships. Our AIS system (real time location of boats) works very well. The alarm goes off, which allows you to change the boat’s course in the event of there being a risk of collision. The problem is that we cannot detect boats that are not equipped with the system. I was sailing at between 15 and 18 knots. After having checked that there was nobody for miles around, I went to lie down for a few minutes and even if I had been up, it was a time at which you look at the weather on the computer. I wouldn’t have seen the trawler. Five minutes is enough. There no was call to the VHF. I think that the fishermen were not watching. I woke with a jump with the impact. I leaped onto the deck and did what was necessary to prevent the mast falling. The boat is seriously damaged. She has no bowsprit any more, there’s a hole at the front of the hull, but the boat has been made safe. All the energy spent for years preparing all this, it’s terrible.”
Faced with the extent of the damage, the skipper quickly knew that the race ended here for him: ‘To repair such damage, you need to be in port, dry-docked and have time ahead of you. To go back up to Les Sables d’Olonne with Groupe Bel in this state would be impossible and the Vendée Globe rules are very clear. Stopping in another port means retiring.”
Four years ago, the violent weather in the Bay of Biscay had already got the better of Kito’s Vendée Globe, and returned to Les Sables d’Olonne with a dismasted Groupe Bel. This year, the fully motivated skipper was returning to the race. ”Since the start, I placed myself in the position of a racer who wants to do well. I really saw to it that I sailed very carefully, determined to do the best possible with the goal of completing this round-the-world, for me, but also for Bel, with whom I have spent eight wonderful years. I am gutted, since I really wanted to offer them a good Vendée Globe. ”
The Bel teams, who follow his adventure in the 30 Group subsidiaries throughout the world, share Kito’s frustration and are fully supporting this man they like so much for his generosity, courage and commitment.
The monohull reached Cascais at 20:00 (Paris time – UT+1). Kito then will work with his technical team to establish a plan of action for the next few days.

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