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Vincent Riou retires from Vendee Globe

2004/5 Vendee Globe winner Vincent Riou, retired from racing today with damage to the keel of PRB.

Frenchman Riou had been in fifth, the highest placed non-foiling boat, when he discovered fatal damage to the part of the boat that connects the keel to the hull.

The skipper of PRB hit a UFO on Sunday morning, following on from this collision, Riou did not initially notice any damage and was able to continue to sail normally.

It was only three hours later that the keel started to vibrate and emit loud noises, indicating there were huge strains on the appendage.

These sounds continued to grow during Sunday night.

Due to the weather conditions (25 to 30 knot winds with average speeds around 19-20 knots), Riou was unable to go and check the keel housing, but informed his shore team of the incident.

It was only this Tuesday morning while sailing in calmer conditions that he was able to carry out the necessary checks.

He discovered that the axis of the keel had been damaged in the collision. This titanium part is an essential element on the boat.

It allows the keel to be attached to the monohull with a plastic ball joint and it is also this axis that allows the keel to be canted.

When the incident occurred, the plastic ball joint broke leading to permanent wear between the keel axis and the ball joint attachment.

In the longer term with the Indian and Pacific Oceans and the climb back up the Atlantic ahead, that means that the integrity of the boat is in danger or even that the keel could break away from the 60-foot boat.

Riou was tonight making for Cape Town, South Africa, some 1,000 nm to the east, to carry out repairs to PRB before sailing back to France.

The frontrunners, led by Alex Thomson's Hugo Boss, are due to arrive at the Cape of Good Hope, the southern tip of South Africa and the gateway to the Southern Ocean, on Friday, four days ahead of schedule.

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