Michel Olivier - Project Manager for Jean Le Cam's Open 60 Bonduelle - spoke to Yachting World about keel worries

Michel Olivier – Project Manager for Jean Le Cam’s Open 60 Bonduelle – is currently in Sables d’Olonne pacing up and down the dockside awaiting position news in the closing stages of the Vendee Globe. Le Cam is currently in second place but in the unpredictable light airs off Le Sables d’Olonne, it’s still too early to predict the exact finishing order.

Like many members of the shore teams Olivier has had his fair share of stress throughout the last three months, particularly when Sill – Roland Jourdain’s brand-new Lombard design sistership to Bonduelle – lost its carbonfibre keel during the race. Olivier commented: “It was a big worry for us, and of course Le Cam, who was the time leading the race south of New Zealand. He immediately checked his keel and couldn’t see anything obvious so basically carried on and hoped for the best.”

Having been launched in the Spring last year both Sill and Bonduelle were set to do the Transat but during early sea trials Sill was found to have serious keel vibration problems which forced Jourdain to withdraw from the race.

Although the same problem hadn’t actually been discovered on Bonduelle, Le Cam and team decided to pull her from the Transat too in order to make further investigations. Oliver added: “Because Bonduelle was exactly the same design we decided not to take part in the Transat but instead work on the keel to be sure it was ready for the Vendee Globe.

“The vibration on Sill’s keel appeared around 20kts and was close to breaking. I didn’t see it but Bilou [Jourdain] said it was crazy and dangerous. After weeks of investigations it was discovered the keel’s torsion stiffness was inadequate. Naturally we needed to do something about Bonduelle too just in case the same thing happened to her.

“Basically to solve the problem we reinforced both keels by laminating a few layers of 45 degrees carbon fibre.”

Although everything aboard Bonduelle seems fine having [nearly] succeeded in completing the race in super-fast speed the immediate job for Team Bonduelle is to get her out the water and see how her keel has fared after this gruelling 25,000 mile race.