Enda O'Coineen has had to take the prudent, but tough decision, to turn back north in the Vendee Globe Race and separate away from the six strong pack of boats he had been racing closely with, playing tag with the back of that same depression. O'Coineen is diverting to Stewart Island, just off the tip of South Island New Zealand in order to make repairs and continue his race.
O'Coineen, who was lying in 11th place of the 19 solo skippers still racing, is seeking to complete a number of repairs, and aims to continue with his race. Stewart Island, which is some 19 miles south of the tip of New Zealand's South Island, is famous in the history of the Vendee Globe as it is where legendary French skipper Yves Parlier stopped for ten days during the 2000-1 edition of the race and repaired his broken mast with no outside assistance, before restepping it using his boom as a derrick.
None of O'Coineen's problems aboard Kilcullen Voyager-Team Ireland, in isolation, are considered race ending in themselves, but together they might endanger him during the 5000 miles between New Zealand and Cape Horn. Following the rules and spirit of the race, the intention of the Irish soloist is to complete his repairs unassisted and to continue racing. He spoke today of losing 'a couple of days'. The solo skipper has a NWW'ly wind of 25-30kts and is expected to arrive at Stewart Island some time late Thursday or early Friday.
O'Coineen said this afternoon: “It is really the accumulation of three weeks going through the Indian Ocean. I have had several small problems and together they have become a big problem. I have a problem with the self steering and with the mast track and with the communications and so I have made the very difficult decision to stop. I am not stopping the race. I will just make the repairs under my own steam. It was a choice between Campbell Island which is close to me (now) or Stewart Island which is to the south of New Zealand. It is a better anchorage and I don’t have much detail on Campbell Island. I was enjoying the race, getting up to 10th or 11th place, but now if I lose a couple of days I will lose a couple of days, but hopefully I will be able to effect these repairs. It is a good long haul to Stewart Island. In one sense I could have continued into the Pacific and to Cape Horn but this is my last jumping off point, so it would have been a huge risk. In the meantime I am doing what is the more prudent, seamanlike thing to do. I am torn apart with it. It is cold and wet and it is the middle of the night right now. It has not been a good day. That is what the challenge is. It will be a big job to do the repairs on my own but hopefully I can do that."
"It is an awful shame to be going there (Stewart Island) and not to stop for any length of time (laughs) but maybe there may be bonus there. We will be back soon. Hopefully we can make it all happen. The self steering system has to be recalibrated. The software is corrupted. I have to go to flat water. That is the first thing. At the spreader level I have a piece of the mast track which is broken about 18 inches. (45cms) The third main thing is when my reef broke I crash gybed and the lazyjacks broke. So to replace the mast track I have to climb the mast. I am making progress with the comms. So none of them alone is life threatening but the accumulation together is all pretty serious. But going into the Pacific this is my last place to undertake these repairs. So it is a big work load. There are some major issues to deal with.”