Twelve of 14 teams have finished the first leg of the 2023-24 Ocean Globe Race (OGR), but a protest hearing was convened due to a broken seal on the 73-foot Pen Duick VI crew comms bag (a designated bag used to organize and store communication devices and essential items that facilitate effective communication among crew members on a sailboat).
There also was evidence that French skipper Marie Tabarly’s WhatsApp account was active after the race’s start in Southampton (UK) on Sept. 10.
As the fully crewed retro race continues the legacy of the 1973-74 Whitbread Round the World Race, permitted onboard technology is severely limited, and all personal electronic devices must be kept sealed onboard for crew use in ports only.
The Whitbread Round the World Race, now known as The Ocean Race, is a prestigious and challenging sailing race that circumnavigates the globe, and multiple teams compete in a series of legs across various oceans and continents. The race was established in 1973 and was named after the British brewing company Whitbread, which sponsored the event for many years. In 2001, the event was renamed “The Volvo Ocean Race” after the new title sponsor, and later, it became “The Ocean Race.”
Taberly is the daughter of Eric Tabarly and is sailing the same ketch built for her dad to race in the 1973–74 race.
The official report includes a statement of the facts in the case, the inspection team’s findings and a summary of the judgment.
The facts as laid out by the OGR team:
At Oct. 20 2023 approx 20.00 local time, Georgie Vintner, Don McIntyre, and Marco Ausderau boarded Pen Duick VI as soon as they arrived. Skipper and all crew signed the NOR compliance declaration.
On inspection of the comms bag presented by Marie Tabarly, the OGR security seal holding approx. nine personal crew phones, sealed a few hours before the start in Southampton, was observed to be broken, allowing free access to all phones. Photos were taken of the broken seal.
The integrity of the seal is the responsibility of the entrant. The seals are quite strong and would not normally break without a reasonable force. A crew member suggested it may have broken while rummaging through the locker where it was stored while looking for food, also stored in the same locker. A comment was made that the crew member did not realize, or possibly forgot about the seal. The crew member was clearly upset.
Marie was present and saw the seal was broken.
The next day, on Oct. 23, a recorded interview was held with Marie Tabarly to investigate the evidence suggesting her WhatsApp account was active after the start including on the Sept. 11 – a day after the start. A [follow-up] interview was held on Oct. 25 to clarify contradictory statements and information.
The inspection team then presented its findings:
The seal on the comms bag onboard Pen Duick VI was found to be broken by the OGR inspection team. Pen Duick VI did not report the seal broken in the first instance. It is likely that the phones inside were not accessed, but this cannot be proven conclusively.
Evidence shows that Marie’s Whatsapp account was confirmed active after the start of the OGR when approx. 5 miles offshore UK and most likely in range of phone signal. Marie was not forthcoming with accurate and timely information in regard to OGR questioning. In fact, contradictory statements and information was provided to key [inquiries] on two occasions. When OGR asked for confirmation of recorded answers, from a meeting 24 hrs. previous, Marie replied … “I do not know what I said and so what!”
Finally, the team summarized its actions:
- OGR cannot prove conclusively the cause of the Active WhatsApp account notice, as two phones are involved and one was onshore. It is possible the phone ashore could have been used, which is not a breach of the NOR. On this issue, no action is taken.
- The OGR security seal on the comms bag was broken. It cannot be proven if it was an accident or with intent. It may be as a result of the entrant not having an onboard management plan to protect the comms bag.
- It is the responsibility of the entrant to maintain the integrity of the seal. Not reporting the broken seal is the fault of the entrant. Other than the regret of the crew member responsible for regularly moving the bag to access food in the same locker, not being aware of the seal and it’s importance, there are no mitigating circumstances.
- Under the NOR 3.1.7.C… Banned Equipment, a broken seal of the comms bag imposes a 72-hr time penalty. The seal of this comms bag was broken.
A penalty, the team determined, “is applicable” and “after consideration of the facts, Pen Duick VI is given a 72-hour time penalty applicable on Leg one of the OGR.”
2023-24 Ocean Globe Race:
FIRST LEG: Start Sept. 10, 2023. 7670 miles. The first boats finish on 9-21 October 2023.
SECOND LEG: Start Nov. 5, 2023. 7250 miles. The first boats finish on 14-23 December 2023.
THIRD LEG: Start Jan. 14, 2024. 4980 miles. The first boats finish on 9-18 February 2024.
FOURTH LEG: Start Mar. 5. 6550 miles. Finish 1-10 April 2024.
The 2023-24 Ocean Globe Race marks the 50th anniversary of the 1973 Whitbread Round the World Race. The OGR is a 27,000-mile sprint around the globe, divided into four legs that pass south of the three great Capes. The fleet is divided into three classes with stopovers in Cape Town, South Africa, Auckland, New Zealand, and Punta del Este, Uruguay, before returning to Southhampton in April 2024.