BY TOM MEADE
Journal Sports Writer
Solo sailor Vincent Riou of France, racing across the North Atlantic from Plymouth, England to Boston, was forced to abandon ship today when the keel on his boat failed.
Riou was racing the 60-foot PRB in The Artemis Transat race that started May 11.
He reported hitting a large sea mammal at 3 a.m., but he believed that the damage remained superficial.
In the afternoon, he realized that one of his keel pins was missing, and that the appendage was only held by the ram used to cant it.
With an approaching storm, he decided to abandon ship and has requested assistance. Loick Peyron, aboard Gitana Eighty has been directed towards PRB by the race direction team. He was expected to arrive in the vicinity, 530 miles off Nova Scotia, tonight.
PRB has dropped its sails, filled its ballast tanks to increase stability even if the keel was to drop out from the hull.
The vessel is in 8-foot seas, in 10 knots of northwesterly wind, with light fog, according to Dana Paxton of Media Pro International in Newport.
Riou won the 2004 Vendee Globe solo race around the world.
Twenty-four boats with solo skippers started The Artemis Transat. The first finishers are expected as early as Friday, depending on weather.
The race record is 12 days, 15 hours, 18 minutes, 8 seconds.