Vincent Riou was forced to retire from the Vendee Globe over the weekend after his boat, PRG, struck a drifting steel buoy, off the coast of South America. Riou had been in third place in the race and was considered a favorite. Riou came in first in the 2004-2005 Vendee Globe. Seven sailors of the orginal fleet of twenty have retired from the race.
Striking floating or partially submerged objects in the water appears to be an increasingly dangerous hazard for sailors. In February 2011, the max-trimaran Banque Populaire V ended an attempt to win the Jules Verne Trophy by sailing the fastest around the world non-stop, when it struck an “unidentifed floating object” and seriously damaged a dagger board while sailing in the South Atlantic. (On its second attempt, Banque Populaire V succeeded in capturing the Cup in January of 2012.)
Far more serious was the sinking of the Irish sail-training brigantine, the Asgard II, off Brittany in 2008. A report by the Marine Casualty Investigation Board determined that a collision with an underwater object, such as a submerged container was the likely cause of the ship sinking. By some estimates, 10,000 shipping containers are lost at sea yearly. Most, though unfortunately no all, sink to the bottom. Some, depending on the cargo can float at or near the surface.