The bulker Captain J. Neofotistos had a welcome Christmas gift for Stéphane Le Diraison, skipper of the racing yacht Compagnie du Lit-Boulogne Billancourt: 50 gallons of diesel, enough to get him to Melbourne, his first and last port call in the 2016 Vendee Globe round-the-world race.
On December 17, Le Diraison's yacht was dismasted about 1,000 nm off the coast of Australia, and while he managed to improvise a mast and a small sail, the boat was hard to control without her full rig. He contacted his shore team, and with the assistance of the Australian authorities and the owner of the Neofotisto, they arranged a rendezvous for refueling so that the yacht could motor to shore. Le Diraison came alongside the Neofotistos on Christmas, and the crew lowered down cans of fuel to get him safely on his way. He arrived in Melbourne on Thursday and was escorted into the harbor by local police.
In a social media post, Le Diraison expressed his thanks to the crew and to the shipowner's family. The Neofotistos’ owner had passed away shortly before the request for help, and his son believed that diverting the bulker to assist was a good way to honor his father's legacy, Diraison said.
The refueling was at least the second instance of a merchant vessel assisting a disabled yacht in this year's race, following the CMA CGM vessel Marion Dufresne’s rescue of yachtsman Kito de Pavant off the Crozet Islands. Overall, 10 out of 29 entrants have abandoned the race course so far, and the remaining contestants have many thousands of miles left to go. This is not unusual for the “Everest of yacht racing”: the Vendee Globe’s organizers say that on average, half of all entrants drop out before the finish line.