PARIS — Atlantic storms have wreaked havoc in the 33-yacht fleet contesting the Route du Rhum single-handed yacht race, with France's leading yachtsman, Eric Tabarly, being forced to call for rescue Wednesday for the first time in his career.
Waves up to 30 feet high in 30- to 40-knot winds broke the tip off an outboard hull of his trimaran, which starting drifting out of control. His own monohull yacht, Pen Duick VI, was by chance sailing only a few miles away en route to the Caribbean and went to pick him up in late afternoon.
The yacht reached the drifting trimaran, but the seas prevented Tabarly from transferring immediately to the other vessel.
The race, the last event for the largest of the racing catamarans and trimarans before a length limit is imposed next year, started Sunday from St. Malo and will finish in Guadeloupe.
A distress signal was heard late Wednesday from skipper Dominique Marsaudon in a catamaran some 100 miles away from Tabarly, but his exact situation was not known.
Eric Loizeau, another leading French yachtsman, was forced to head for the port of Brest early Tuesday because of broken rigging on his catamaran.
Leading the race by about 20 miles Wednesday morning was Loic Caradec in the giant catamaran Royale.