Ger O'Rourke's Volvo Ocean race team has a narrow escape following rig problems

Team Delta Lloyd went through an eventful night on the Atlantic Ocean, heading for Fernando de Noronha, an island off the Brazilian coast. On Sunday evening October 19 at about 9:30 PM, the connection between the spreader and the mast on starboard side broke. At that moment, the Delta Lloyd was in sixth position of the first leg to Cape Town. Directly after the incident, the Dutch/Irish entry dropped back to the eight place. Due to the crew’s creativity, the problem was solved at 5:00 AM. By finding a solution while racing, there is no need to head inshore at Fernando de Noronha, which saves Team Delta Lloyd from a twelve hour penalty.

“The latest news is that the alternative connection is attached and we are in the gluing process. We have entered the Doldrums, it is hot and we are doing 1,2 knots over the ground”, said Media Crew Member Sander Pluijm (NED) this afternoon. “The guys made a mast foot out of two carbon covers. One end fits the spreader and the other one the mast. As soon as the glue has dried, we will put tension on the diamond and start pushing the boat again. Of course the distance increased between us and our competitors, but fortunately they are floating as well. If this had happened in a breeze of 25 knots, we would not have been able to fix the damage out on the ocean. In that case, we would have been forced to visit a harbour.” The Delta Lloyd has about 100 miles to go before she will meet Neptune at the equator.

The incident

The incident happened in the sequence of a sail change, as the halyard got stuck behind the spreader. This is a kind of crossbar attached to the mast and the stay (diamond) that gives the mast its pre-bend and position. Pluijm reported shortly after the event: “The grinders worked hard to hoist the sail. That is how too much pressure was put on the spreader in question and it broke.” At that moment, the consternation was considerable. Pluijm at the beginning of the night: “We were doing so well and the race was full on. We probably have to make a pit-stop for the necessary repairs on the island of Fernando de Noronha, which we must round as part of the course. If that is what we have to do, we have no chances left for a good result in this leg to Cape Town. Unless the boys come up with a brilliant idea.” Which they did, so the problem was solved in the early morning and the Delta Lloyd could continue the race.