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Damaged French yacht limping into Bluff

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 20/12/2016 Sean Martin

<span style="font-size:13px;">A French yacht competing in a solo round-the-world race that struck a mystery object in the Tasman Sea is limping into Bluff with a Coastguard escort.</span> © Getty Images A French yacht competing in a solo round-the-world race that struck a mystery object in the Tasman Sea is limping into Bluff with a Coastguard escort. A Frenchman's yacht badly damaged in a collision with a mystery object in the Tasman Sea is limping into Bluff with a Coastguard escort.

The skipper of 18m Le Souffle du Nord, Thomas Ruyant, was taking part in his first Vendee Globe solo round-the-world race when he struck the object and split open the hull, towards the bow, on Sunday.

The accident happened about 260 nautical miles, or nearly 500km, off the South Island and race organisers say Ruyant thought he would lose his boat to the flooding and steering damage.

A Coastguard launch reached the yacht late on Tuesday evening but it could not be towed, presumably because of the damage.

"A few hours ago I thought it was all over for my mighty boat," Ruyant told race organisers.

"I could no longer make headway in 45 knots of wind. I was below with one finger on the beacon button to ask to be picked up. I thought I was going to lose Le Souffle du Nord forever.

"The rig was limp and I no longer had any backstays. It was all hanging by a thread. After that tricky moment and rounding the famous cape, I realised that I was going to make it. There was an incredible moment of satisfaction with the sun going down along the coast of New Zealand."

Two of Ruyant's shore crew were aboard the Coastguard vessel and were able to stop Le Souffle sinking with the help of a pump.

The Coastguard escorted the stricken vessel at about 3 to 4 knots and they were expected in Bluff on Wednesday morning.

"It's been a long night for the yachtie and also the volunteer Coastguard crew who have responded to this incident," said Coastguard southern manager Cheryl Moffatt.

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