Vendee Globe Drama

Four skippers are out of the running six days into this race around the world.

Vendee Globe- Sam Davies

Saveol skipper Sam DaviesSam Davies/ Saveol

On Saturday, November 10, 20 boats crossed the line in Les Sables d'Olonne, France, at the start of the 2012-2013 Vendee Globe. The event, held every four years, has been dubbed "the world's toughest race." And for good reason. The solo, non-stop race first heads south from France, goes below the major capes—the Cape of Good Hope, Cape Leeuwin, and Cape Horn—and then heads back up the Atlantic to France. Typically, at least half of the skippers are forced to retire early, and this year is proving no different.

Marc Guillemot, aboard Safran, had to turn around the first evening of the race after the boat lost its keel. At a press conference upon his arrival back in Les Sables d'Olonne, Guillemot said, "The keel had done between 23,000 and 25,00 miles. We trained with it before the last Transat Jacques Vabre in 2011, we did the B2B, went around the British Isles, and then four or five thousand miles in conditions which were not always easy. So, given that all it had been through, I left with confidence and no competitor would consider leaving without a lot of confidence in your keel."

After a terrifying collision with a fishing trawler, Kito de Pavant sailing_ Groupe Bel_ was also forced to retire. Fortunately, he was not hurt and was able to make it in to port in Cascais, Portugal, with the boat still in one piece and the skipper safe and sound.

On day five, Saveol skipper Sam Davies, who came in 4th place in the 2008-2009 Vendee Globe and is the only woman competing in this edition of the race, was sailing in 25 to 30 knots, with gusts up to 40 when her boat was dismasted. "I was getting ready to put my foul-weather gear on as the squall was just finishing and the wind was dropping," Davies recalls. "The boat jumped off the top of the top of a wave, and that's when I had the impact, and then the boat came upright, and suddenly there is no more wind in your rigging."

Another collision with a fishing boat on Wednesday morning forced Bureau Vallee captain Louis Burton to head back to the start line. He had hoped to repair the boat and start the race again, but conditions were such that he had to divert to La Coruna, Spain, and abandon the race.

Currently, Acciona 100% EcoPowered skipper Javier Sanso is heading toward the lee of Canary Islands to retrieve the main halyard. "Today has been pretty entertaining preparing all the material to go up the mast tomorrow in the shelter of the Canary Islands," Sanso explained. "I just need some sheltered water without waves for a few hours and I think I'll be back again 100 percent. I've been able to sleep a full 2 hours—a real luxury!"

The current leaders are Armel Le Cleac'h aboard Banque Populaire, Francois Gabart on MACIF, and Bernard Stamm, aboard Cheminees Poujoulat, but there are many, many miles to go. Check out the Vendee Globe website for news updates and race tracker.