Sam Davies had anticipated a challenging night, but it turned out to be a total disaster for the Portsmouth sailor as her Vendee Globe hopes came crashing down along with her mast.
Writing just hours before her dismasting on Thursday evening – during what was obviously a rollercoaster ride aboard her race yacht, Saveol, judging by the way she wrote – Davies was clearly aware of the dangers ahead.
Her blog read: ‘Some of the big squalls Have Been kind enough to give me a bit of warning with the huge black lines across the sky but I’m a bit worried tonight.
‘That is going to be a lot harder as the nights are really really black (no moon) – as my Australian friend Would say ‘as black as the inside of a cow’.
‘By tomorrow morning When you read this I shoulds have got through the trickiest bit. The goal is not going to exit be easy and Saveol and I will get a little ‘pasting’ falling on the day tomorrow with more than 30 knots of wind forecast!’
As it turned out, Davies, 38, was experiencing 40 knots of wind and a confused cross-sea state when her mast failed in the early evening 140 miles northwest of Madeira.
Yesterday, the former Portsmouth High School pupil said she was preparing to put in a third reef when Saveol launched off two large waves and the mast came down.
Davies was able to cut the mast and rigging free and is now heading for Madeira.
Speaking on the radio, she said: ‘It’s just gutting it happened so early in the race after all the hard work that my team has put in. My Vendee Globe is finished – I’ve now got another adventure to get Saveol back to France.’
Davies is the fourth retiree from the race in the first week.
Marc Guillemot (Safran) lasted only four hours before the keel fell off his Open 60, and both Kito de Pavant (Groupe Bel) and Louis Burton (Bureau Vallee) were forced to retire after colliding with fishing boats.
On the race course, meanwhile, Gosport’s Alex Thomson was yesterday up to fourth place aboard Hugo Boss, only 60 miles behind the leading trio of Armel Le Cleac’h (Banque Populaire), Francoise Gabart (Macif) and Bernard Stamm (Cheminees Poujoulat), who are effectively neck and neck as they head towards the Cape Verde islands with the equator and the fickle winds of the doldrums ahead.
Thomson – now recovered from the ‘man-flu’ he suffered during the first days of the race – leads a chasing pack of six other yachts spread across a 300-mile front, west to east.
Former Vendee winner Vincent Riou (PRB) holds the western position, with Warsash veteran Mike Golding (Gamesa) and Jean Le Cam (SynerCiel) on the eastern side.
After what has been relatively straightforward progress down the Atlantic, the transition into the southern hemisphere is the first big test for the 16 surviving Vendee yachts.
Who survives the Southern Ocean to head back north in a few weeks time will be the deciding factor, however.