Davies retires from Route du Rhum as Thomson leads IMOCA fleet

Portsmouth sailor Sam Davies Picture: VINCENT CURUTCHET/DARK FRAME
Portsmouth sailor Sam Davies Picture: VINCENT CURUTCHET/DARK FRAME
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Portsmouth sailor Sam Davies has been forced to abandon her Route du Rhum bid.

The 44-year-old – along with Gosport’s Alex Thomson – set off from Saint-Malo, Brittany, on Sunday in one of the most famous solo offshore races.

La Route du Rhum is a 3,542 nautical mile race which comes around just every four years.

The event takes skippers from Saint-Malo in France, across the Atlantic to the finish line at Pointe-à Pitre, Guadeloupe, in the Caribbean.

This year marks the 40 anniversary of the race and the most competitive in its history.

Davies, who has sailed around the world before as part of the all-female Team SCA in the Volvo Ocean Race and solo in the famous Vendée Globe race, was making her Route du Rhum debut, competing in the IMOCA class.

However, she has been forced to end her involvement in this year’s event due to structural problems to her Initiatives-Coeur 60ft monohull, as she faced very rough seas in the depression sweeping the Bay of Biscay.

Davies explained: ‘I discovered the structural problems on Tuesday.

‘The first thing I noticed was that the skin of my ballast had delaminated.

‘As I was making a tack, I was mopping up water in my living area and I heard the same noise as the one from the ballast, a creaking that came from the hull around the longitudinal reinforcement.

‘Whenever that was slammed, I heard a creak. I looked everywhere, there was no sign of a leak. I assessed with my team that I could continue.

‘Once I regained some speed, I found myself on starboard tack and so I was leaning on the damaged port side.

‘Whenever the boat slammed, I could see the hull bending under my feet, with folds appearing on the inner skin – that’s a little scary.

‘I contacted the team to make an analysis with the boatbuilders. I was not feeling that relaxed.

‘The problem is that we still had four days of these conditions, with a lot of wind and four days upwind, that’s a long time. I wasn’t very keen on attempting it, especially as the damaged area is in my living area, not far from the batteries.

‘If there is any kind of tear in these conditions, I will find myself without battery power, communications and energy.

So, I decided to turn around and head back to Lorient while the wind was pushing me in the right direction.

‘I’m hoping to be able to protect the damaged area in the time it takes to get to Lorient.’

Thomson, competing onboard HUGO BOSS, currently leads the IMOCA fleet as they head westwards.