Paul Cayard reports on the damage suffered to Black Pearl on day one of the Volvo Ocean Race
After properly inspecting the Black Pearl, we are now in a position to
report on the damage.
1. Bulkhead C, midway from the bow to the mast, has broken. There was shearing of the frame along with compression of the vertical beam.
2. The ‘bomber doors’ which seal the keel box at the hull, have been
3. A bolt that holds the keel pins in has sheared.
That is the main damage. We also had a complete instrument black-out earlier on Saturday night. This included our computers and therefore I could not write any text so the information coming off our boat may have appeared slow or non existent. I was in telephone communication with race officials.
My priority on Sunday was to get the boat back to land safely. This was not easy as we were caught in a low-pressure cell that had formed off the coast of Portugal and we experienced gusts of 50 knots and very rough seas. We sailed with storm jib and trisail all day Sunday and Sunday night and at times had to lower the storm jib as there was too much sail area up. It was the windiest and roughest conditions I have been in at least eight years. As our true wind angle was about 80 degrees, we had breaking waves crashing on the deck at times.
The reason why I don’t want to sail the boat to Cape Town is that it is unsafe to sail without the ‘bomber doors’. To explain; the keel cants 40 degrees each side of centre. The axis of this rotation is 150mm up inside the boat. Therefore there is a hole in the bottom of these boats that is about 400mm (1.5 ft) wide. This hole is the bottom of the keel box which is ‘recessed’ into the boat. The bomber doors not only make the hull fair as the keel swings from side to side, but they protect the inside of the keel box from high pressure water force. Without them the lid to the keel box and the rubber gaskets that seal the hydraulic ram arms, which actuate the swinging of the keel, are exposed to high-pressure water.
When we discovered the situation early Sunday morning, the lid to the box was bulging upward and strained the fasteners while water was squirting into the boat due to the 35 knots of water pressure and the rams seals were bulging like ‘cows udders’. Not one to withdraw from racing easily, in this case, I immediately called for the crew to take all sails down and slow the boat to less than 10 knots.
So this particular damage is not one that can be band-aided. New parts
have to be made in the UK and flown to us. This will take over a week. Then they have to be fitted which will take 3-4 days to do well. We might be able to do this and then sail to Cape Town but we would arrive just before the in-port race on the 26th, if all went well. If we had another issue along the way we could well miss Leg 2. And why? To gather two points?
I have decided not to pursue that option but rather to transport the boat to Cape Town and rejoin the race in an organised and prepared manner. I need to turn this negative into a positive. With my team, we believe we have devised a plan to do that.
The boat will stay here in Portugal until the 25 November when it will go by air cargo to Cape Town. We will be working on the boat in the time before it flies and the time after it arrives. We hope to sail again around 12 December for a few days of sea trials offshore.