Since Wednesday, in the corridors of La Créole Beach, the historic hotel of the Route du Rhum in Guadeloupe, which hosts the organization and the skippers, the atmosphere is very heavy. The capsizing of the boat Coralia, which caused the death of two employees of OC Sport Pen Duickin the middle of the night is on everyone’s mind.
The boat, not authorized to sail at night?
Two people are still under surveillance at the Pointe-à-Pitre hospital. The survivors are back at the hotel, they are obviously in shock. A psychological cell has been set up for all those who have been affected by the tragedy. A little less than 72 hours after the capsize, the Guadeloupe 1 television channelD released information claiming that the boat should not have sailed at night. This information, which has not yet been confirmed by the Pointe-à-Pitre prosecution, has caused a new stir within the organization. Joseph Bizard, the director of OC Sport Pen Duick took his responsibilities and agreed to answer our questions at 8:30 p.m. (French time).
Joseph Bizard, can you confirm the information from Guadeloupe 1Dwho affirms that the boat which capsized should not have sailed at night?
There is an ongoing investigation to clarify what happened. Families, we OC Sport, we all need to understand. Things have been said and written for two days. We remain cautious. Regarding this information, I have no specific information at this time.
Can you explain to us how these boats are chartered, carrying guests, partners and journalists?
As far as the boats are concerned, they are rented by the Guadeloupe Region and made available to the organization of the Race according to the following procedure: we send the Guadeloupe Region a detailed specification describing precisely the specificities to which we ask that the boats and their crews respond 24 hours a day. The Guadeloupe Region organizes a call for tenders in accordance with the rules of public procurement and the requirements of the Department of the Sea of the Regional Prefecture in the matter. At the end of this call for tenders, the Region chooses the service providers, rents these boats and their crews and makes them available to us. Finally, before the finish, a list of the speedboats envisaged on the body of water is submitted to the Department of the Sea to give them access to the various restricted areas.
OC Sport is therefore not the charterer of the boats?
No, we are not the charterer. We have precise specifications but it is the Guadeloupe Region which is responsible for the call for tenders and the choice of rental companies, in accordance with the legislation in force.
How have you and your team experienced the past few hours?
We are not programmed to handle such a drama. Our first concern since the announcement of the tragedy has been to take care of the families. This is THE priority apart from all considerations. They were our friends, our colleagues (her voice quavers in the face of emotion…). From a distance it is not easy. We take care of them so that they can move around, find accommodation and organize themselves for all the necessary procedures. I repeat it is our top priority. Because that’s where the pain is in the end…
We have decided to no longer schedule night boat trips
What do you plan to do now for outings in partner boats on each arrival?
We will continue to take care of the maximum security of the event as we have done since we worked on the construction of this edition of the Route du Rhum. It was our number 1 priority both on the start in Saint-Malo and on the arrival in Pointe-à-Pitre. The decision to postpone the departure was part of this logic of safety to target the integrity of the sailors and the sporting integrity of the event. This notion of security has predominated all our work. And this is still the case since until further notice, we have decided to no longer schedule night boat trips for guests, partners and journalists. And that as long as we have not removed any doubts about the quality of the boats that are made available to us.
You have not taken the decision to neutralize the race?
We made the decision to continue the race. The boats are at sea and they continue. We ensure the safety of the boats and we deal with the sporting aspect of the event. We are going to set back what also makes the Route du Rhum, with all the festivities on land. Everything was canceled on Wednesday. Things will resume this weekend with a tone that will undoubtedly be different. We will have to find the right balance because it was a brutal shock for all of us. But we are facing up.