WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — French sailor Thomas Ruyant was steering his stricken yacht towards the southern New Zealand port of Bluff Tuesday, desperate to beat an approaching storm after striking a submerged object in the Tasman Sea.
Ruyant, who is competing in the Vendee Globe solo round the world race, said his 60-foot IMOCA yacht, Le Souffle du Nord pour le Projet Imagine, had cracked "like an eggshell" after hitting what he believes to be a shipping container on Sunday.
He was more than 400 kilometers from New Zealand's southern coast and sailing at around 17 knots when the collision occurred. Ruyant was reported on Tuesday to be edging towards Bluff at around 7.5 knots (13.8 kph) under engine power.
Vendee Globe organizers said Ruyant was hoping to reach safety before "another big stormy low pressure (system) arrives."
New Zealand's Rescue Co-ordination Center said on Tuesday it was in constant radio contact with Ruyant and was tracking his position every six minutes. The center has a plan to evacuate the sailor by helicopter if it becomes necessary.
Ruyant told the Vendee website he feared his yacht might split in half at any moment.
"The damage at the front of the boat is spreading," he said. "The hull is opening up and the frame coming away more, everywhere.
"I'm sailing to the south of New Zealand. I'm not sure if it will all stay in one piece until then. What's good is that I'm in helicopter range, which is reassuring."
Ruyant said the collision was "exceptionally violent. It gives me shivers just thinking about it."