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Indefatigable Conrad Colman digs deep as resources run low on 107th day at sea

Indefatigable Conrad Colman digs deep as resources run low on 107th day at sea

Dismasted Vendee Globe skipper Conrad Colman is - in every sense of the phrase - running on empty. 

After 107 days at sea the round the world solo sailor is down to his emergency food rations and is desperately low on electric power as he edges his jury rigged IMOCA 60 Foresight Natural Energy towards the finish line of Les Sables D'Olonne.

The Kiwi sailor lost his mast in strong winds and big waves on February 10 with fewer than one thousand miles to go in the 24,000-mile non-stop around the world race. 

Lesser men might have crumbled under such a crushing blow so late in the race, but not so Colman. As soon as conditions moderated enough to work safely on deck he began to assemble what was left of his sail plan – a damaged boom and some headsails – into a workable jury rig. It took him four days to repair the boom and set it up as a makeshift mast but since doing so has been able to make credible forward progress. 

The makeshift sheeting system for Coleman's jury rig

Foresight Natural Energy is unique in the Vendee Globe fleet in that all its electrical power is generated from renewable sources on board without using an engine. Colman is committed to finishing the race with no emissions but his boat is going too slow for the hydro generators to work and the sky is too cloudy for his solar panels to help out either.

Right now, he has only enough power for four more days if uses the absolute minimum of electricity – a problem given it could take him five days to finish at his current rate.

Colman is keeping his spirits high but he knows he is in a dangerous situation. Physically and mentally exhausted, starving hungry and sleep deprived he somehow he manged to clear the shipping lanes and avoid being run down by a container ship – an experience he described as feeling “..a bit like I am crawling across a highway.”

He says his decision not to throw in the towel when he lost his mast was, he says, fuelled by “anger and bloody mindedness, stubbornness, to not be beaten on the doorstop of the race”. In terms of provisions he is down to his last two packets of powdered soup and has been dipping into his life raft emergency supplies to keep going. 

Incredibly nevertheless, Colman has managed to keep himself positive and even, at times, remarkably upbeat.

Colman has two painfully light wind days in the Bay of Biscay coming up before he hopes a low-pressure system may enable him to sail fast enough to charge his batteries from the hydro generators hanging over the transom of his boat. He has crossed his fingers hoping the low and a maybe prolonged sunny spell might just get him through.

“At the moment I am nervously watching the energy tick down and things don't really add up,” he said today. “I have – I think – five days of sailing through the water and four days’ electricity left and so I am really hoping that I can find a solution. Or, that the skies clear because it is grey.”

If he makes it – and who would bet against him? – Colman will surely be assured of a glorious welcome by the French crowds in Les Sables D’Olonne and a place in the plucky heroes section of the annals of the Vendee Globe.  

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Video: Fun in the sun at the start of the 2017 RORC Caribbean 600

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