Christophe Bullens and his team have been working tirelessly to find a new boat to race in the VELUX 5 OCEANS after Five Oceans of Smiles was cruelly dismasted on the way to La Rochelle earlier this week.
The mast broke into three pieces while Christophe and a small crew were sailing around 15 miles off Cherbourg in Normandy, France. It also punctured a hole in the hull of Five Oceans of Smiles. The dismasting couldn’t have come at a worse time – there is now just over one week until the start of the 30,000-mile solo round the world race which begins in La Rochelle on October 17.
While many would have given up, Christophe and his small band of volunteers jumped straight into the job of finding a new Eco 60 yacht to race. Since Monday, Christophe has been to see several Eco 60s which are on the market in France including solo sailor Arnaud Boissieres’ Arkena Verandas and remains positive about being on the VELUX 5 OCEANS start line.
Christophe’s shore manager Els Vandermeulen said: “Christophe has looked at several boats and now has a few different options which are all doable. Not competing in the VELUX 5 OCEANS is simply not an option for Christophe.”
Since the dismasting, Christophe and his team have been inundated with offers of help from fans all over Belgium and France. A team of fans are travelling to Cherbourg this weekend to help prepare Five Oceans of Smiles for the voyage back to Belgium.
Another such offer came from British solo sailor Josh Hall, a former VELUX 5 OCEANS competitor, who is now based in France. Hall took part in the race in 1990, 1994 and 1998 of the race. During the 1994 race he was rescued from his sinking boat in the Southern Ocean by fellow competitor and VELUX 5 OCEANS assistant race director Alan Nebauer. In 1998 Hall’s boat Gartmore dismasted in the South Atlantic. When he heard of Five Oceans of Smiles’ dismasting he called Christophe immediately offering to help.
Els added: “We have had so many offers of help, even from people we have never met. It is very touching and very much appreciated. VELUX Belgium contacted us straight away to offer their help and of course we are working closely with the VELUX 5 OCEANS race management in La Rochelle.
Christophe will announce his plans for the VELUX 5 OCEANS in La Rochelle on Monday.