Re-rigging two dismasted Clipper yachts on the other side of the world

There used to be a standing joke in the editorial office of one magazine I worked for. It was called ‘but where are the roof bars?’ Some of our sailing trips involved driving the crew to point A, sailing to point B and then having to retieve the car from A. Unless of course you could rent a car from B to get to A. Simple enough so far, except for the roof bars. These were for the obligatory windsurfer that went with us and without which it could not be transported. And, in those days anyway, you could not hire cars with roof bars.

A simple logistical exercise but absolutely nothing when you consider the problems of the organisers of the Clipper round the world race when two of its yachts were dismasted in the Pacific. Read how they managed it.

“International marine events company Clipper Ventures Plc has successfully carried out a major logistical operation to re-rig two of the yachts competing in its Clipper 07-08 Round the World Yacht Race. The ten-strong fleet is now racing from Santa Cruz to Panama following the race restart for the internationally-backed yachts on Thursday. New rigs were assembled for Durban 20101 and Beyond and in the UK and freighted the 7,500 miles to Honolulu after the two 68-foot racing yachts were dismasted in Race 7 across the Pacific from Qingdao, China.

Clipper Ventures Chairman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston said: “When we lost two masts in the Clipper fleet in just over a week during the race from Qingdao to Hawaii, the priority was to replace all the similar fittings to those that failed within the fleet and to manufacture and ship out two new masts to Hawaii.

“Time was of the essence as the Clipper Race has a tight schedule and the plans of 200 crew members were at stake. Thanks to the tremendous efforts of the Race Team in Hawaii, Finance Director Jeremy Knight and Fleet Manager John Farndell in the UK and the many companies involved around the globe led by UK-based Spencer Rigging, the fleet is now back racing again”, he said.

When lost half of her 81-foot (24.5 metre) mast on 5 March, Clipper Ventures immediately approached Sparcraft in Cape Town, the company that manufactured the masts for the ten matched Clipper 68s, to provide a replacement section.

However, Sparcraft suffered a factory fire on 7 March and was unable to make the new mast section as a result. On 10 April the company confirmed that its other factories in France and the United States did not have the spare capacity to make the mast. Later that day, Clipper Ventures sourced the required mast section in France, which was transported to Atlantic Spars in Brixham.

Meanwhile, on 13 March, day 19 of the 4,400-mile race from Qingdao to Hawaii, Durban 2010 and Beyond lost her mast at deck level, just eight days after lost her rig.

Following the second dismasting, Clipper Ventures sourced similar sections from the Netherlands to replace Durban 2010 and Beyond’s mast which was also finished by Atlantic Spars. Meanwhile, Spencer Rigging sourced enough compact strand to complete two complete new sets of standing rigging.

Spencer Rigging cut and made up the rigging in Southampton and Cowes. They also commissioned a company to manufacture custom-made bottle screws and wire terminals as Clipper Ventures regular supplier, Navtec, only holds minimal stock and did not have the capacity to make replacements for many weeks. These parts were made in Germany and Newcastle.

Sir Robin said: “With parts coming from all over Europe, Spencer Rigging and Atlantic Spars had to work together closely to make ensure that everything fitted together correctly without any hitches when it arrived in Hawaii. With the boats more 7,000 miles away in Honolulu, there was neither the time, nor the opportunity to ‘try it for size’!”

Clipper Fleet Manager John Farndell sourced all the remaining parts, with Marlow supplying running rigging. This process was complete by 26 April, just under two weeks after Durban 2010 and Beyond’s dismasting.

The two masts were road transported from Devon to Luxembourg from where they were flown by front-loading Boeing 747 to Los Angeles arriving in the early hours of 29 March. This consignment containing the new rigs and related parts then waited in Los Angeles airport to be loaded onto the first available flight to Honolulu on 2 April.

After all the waiting, the plane it was booked on developed a technical fault. However, the airline managed to get it fixed, and the consignment was loaded onto the Boeing 747, fitting through the side doors with just six inches to spare.

The rigs were flown to Honolulu arriving early on 2 April, where the Clipper Maintenance team along with three riggers from Spencer Rigging and a mast builder from Atlantic Spars were eagerly awaiting their arrival. Both rigs were delivered to the boatyard, where they were stepped and tuned in just over a week with and Durban 2010 and Beyond leaving on 10 April just five days after the rest of the fleet.

Clipper Race Director Joff Bailey said: “It was a magical moment watching the ten teams cross the start line in Santa Cruz on Thursday as it marked the end of a very challenging experience. The blue water, clear skies and a reasonable breeze also helped the day go well.

“I’d particularly like to commend the crews of and Durban 2010 and Beyond on the massive amount of work they put into assisting us with the new masts and the great job they did in turning the boats around in less than 48 hours after they arrived in Santa Cruz.”

After a brief stopover, Race 9 from Santa Cruz got underway on 24 April. The fleet is scheduled to reach Panama City on 13 May.”