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November 27th, 2010

Belgian skipper’s sail fitting breaks and food destroyed in night of drama

UP to two tonnes of water flooded into Belgian ocean racer Christophe Bullens’ yacht Five Oceans of Smiles too last night after a part on his generator broke. Christophe awoke in the early hours to find water up to his knees in the engine compartment of the Eco 60 yacht.

To make matters worse several rubbish bags had split open, spilling their contents into the compartment. It took the 49-year-old VELUX 5 OCEANS skipper hours to bail the water out of the engine compartment and clean the rubbish up.

It was beginning of a long night for Christophe that also saw a fitting holding his foresail break and his food store flooded with water. The problems began when Christophe was awoken by the smell of fuel in the cabin.

“I woke up with a headache and had a real urge to get some fresh air quickly,” he said. “I saw a blue fog in the boat and recognised the smell of fuel. I went into the engine compartment and it was a nightmare. There was water up to the knees, everything was flooded. My rubbish bags were floating on the water and had been ripped – rubbish was everywhere. The water lock on the generator was broken so all the water from the recooling of the engine was pouring inside for nearly an hour. I estimate the volume of water to be between one and two tonnes.”

After spending several hours bailing the water out, Christophe took the helm of Five Oceans of Smiles too to allow his autopilot to rest. Shortly afterwards he heard a loud bang and on closer inspection found a fitting holding his Solent foresail in place had broken. Luckily the sail was not damaged and Christophe was able to reattach it after fixing the fitting.

Just to add insult to injury, Christophe later discovered the compartment storing his food supplies had flooded with water. “I went to make some dinner, opened the food compartment, and to my horror it was flooded,” Christophe said. “Luckily the freeze dried food is packaged separately and is still dry. Everything else is soaked. No more little biscuits or long life bread. Thankfully I have less than two weeks left at sea.”

Christophe’s run of bad luck started before the race began when his original yacht Five Oceans of Smiles was dismasted en route to La Rochelle. After restarting the first leg a week after the rest of the fleet, Christophe was forced to pull into the Canary Islands to make repairs and then to the Cape Verde Islands when he was struck down with an infection. He then broke his Solent stay off the coast of Brazil.

At the last position report Christophe had 2,264 nautical miles left to sail to the finish line in Cape Town, South Africa.

Ocean sprint 1:

Brad Van Liew finished November 14, 28 days, 1 hour, 51 minutes

Gutek finished November 17, 31 days, 6 hours, 3 minutes

Derek Hatfield finished November 20, 33 days, 22 hours and 37 minutes

Chris Stanmore-Major finished 36 days, 0 hours and 44 minutes

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