Saturday, 12 March 2011

BWR: Groupe Bel Forced to Abandon the Barcelona World Race

Ushuaia. Image copyright Kito de Pavant.

by Julia Huve

Kito de Pavant and Sébastien Audigane, who arrived in Ushuaia on Wednesday evening, as well as their team, have safely assessed the keel problems of the monohull Groupe Bel, which they noticed on Monday in the Pacific. The appendage and the peripheral areas inside the hull are too damaged to have any hope of repairing them on site and returning to the race. The crew has decided to abandon the Barcelona World Race and officially informed the race management this Friday at 1830. The Groupe Bel Team is now organizing the return of the monohull to Europe by cargo ship.

“Our round-the-world ends at the far end of the world”, said Kito regretfully, after two months of racing, three oceans crossed and the rounding of three capes. Stopping the race is obviously as heartbreaking for us sailors, as it is for those who share their adventures every day through what they have written and their pictures. This difficult decision was made with the support of Bel Group, which puts the safety of its men first.

Partners: Kito de Pavant and Seb Audigane. Image copyright Kito de Pavant.

The great adventure since Barcelona

So technical problems have got the better of Seb and Kito's unfailing motivation, since they never let up during these last 70 days of racing. Since they left the Gibraltar Strait, the fight has been superb, particularly with Estrella Damm. In third position before their marathon 48-hour stopover in Wellington to repair their sails (gennaker and breeze spinnaker), Groupe Bel was then victim of the anger of ATU, a tropical low which the duo managed without incident, leaving Estrella Damm several thousand miles behind. Just under 300 miles from Cape Horn, Groupe Bel clocked in in 5th position with the serious ambition of giving her all in the Atlantic battle.

Only on Monday afternoon, abnormal noises coming from the keel-head alerted the crew, who noticed that it was moving forward and backward in a worrying manner. The two following days were particularly stressful as they tried to get to Ushuaia harbor as quickly as possible, since the keel threatened to come away from the hull at any moment. Rounding Cape Horn on Tuesday, was nonetheless a poor but real consolation for the sailors, punctuating the effective crossing of three of the world's oceans.

Bringing Groupe Bel back from Ushuaia

In Ushuaia, everything has been organized to take Groupe Bel out of the water. This operation could be carried out tomorrow during the day if the weather should permit (note that it was snowing in Ushuaia this morning). It is now a question of finding a cargo ship as quickly as possible to bring the boat back to Europe. This is a complicated operation from the southernmost town in the world! Kito de Pavant's aim is to get Groupe Bel back sailing as quickly as possible and to continue the IMOCA season with the European Pro Tour with crew in sight, which will leave from Istanbul on the 3rd of July.

Groupe Bel. Image copyright Gilles Martin-Raget/Groupe Bel.

What they said:

Kito de Pavant
: “This is a difficult decision to make. We are leaving most of the Barcelona World Race course behind us. Obviously, it is frustrating, since all that was left was the Atlantic and we had hopes of really continuing the fight to win the podium. However, we are also happy to be here, safe and sound. This whole story could have turned nasty! What's important now is to find a cargo ship quickly to return the boat to Europe, so that she can be ready for the start of the European Pro Tour in Instanbul on 3 July.

Sébastien Audigane: "It's not easy to abandon a race, and particularly a round-the-world! Sailing is a mechanical sport, so this kind of damage does happen. It's part of our job. The main thing is that we are now safe! Nearly 70 days at sea, is no small thing, particularly after crossing 3 oceans. This Barcelona World Race with Kito was a magnificent experience for me. Despite these last difficult days, there is only one thing I want to do. I want to set off again and take part in the Vendée Globe. I must be a bit crazy! For the moment, we are still in Ushuaia so I can't plan towards the future, but there are many other races I'm interested in for the rest of the season."

Barcelona World Race in short
Two-handed non-stop round-the-world race on board IMOCA 60 foot monohulls.
Start at Barcelona on 31 December at 13:00
Second BWR event organized by the FNOB (Fundació per la Navegació Oceànica Barcelona)
Course: 25,000 miles (46,300 kilometers) passing between the two islands of New-Zealand
15 duos registered: 30 sailors, 8 nationalities, 3 women
Project website :
Official website:

Group Bel is one of the world leaders in brand name cheeses

Its portfolio of different products on an international scale, such as La Vache qui Rit® (The Laughing Cow), Kiri®, Mini Babybel®, Leerdammer®, and Boursin®, as well as about twenty local brand names, enabled it to make a turnover of approximately 2.2 billion Euros in 2009. Nearly 11,500 workers divided among thirty international subsidiaries, contribute to the success of the group. Its products are developed on 25 production sites and distributed in nearly 120 countries.

"Thumbs up for Kito" campaign !

Since June 2007, 7,500 thumbprints were collected from the Group's 11,5 00 wor kers worldwide, in 25 countries, and placed on the yacht's mast as a sign of support for the skipper. And it's not over yet, the count is rising.

Groupe Bel
Barcelona World Race