Dalton's bulb problems raises concerns for 5-Oceans Race competitor Robin Knox-Johnston 21/3/07

Log date Wednesday 21 March 2007
Position Lat 09 07N Long 050 5W
Miles To Norfolk, USA 2,220 nm
Distance In 24 Hours 196.7 nm
Average Speed In 24 Hours 8.2 knots

Six-hundred miles from Trinidad, 800 from the northern end of the Windward Islands. Occasional squalls, the wind beginning to veer slightly. Four Flying Fish in the cockpit of Saga Insurance this morning, two slightly larger, but still too small to bother to cook and eat. There are around the whole time at present.

Some progress but we’re not cutting down on Unai (Basurko). At 1508 yesterday we were 1,533 miles behind him with 2,320 to go to the finish and he has had slightly more favourable winds since.

The news that AGD’s keel bulb has fallen off means that he is effectively out of the race unless by some miracle the old bulb can be found. So now we are down to four boats. Still, to quote Henry V, “the fewer men the greater share of honour!”

I have never been to Fortaleza, only Rio and Salvador, where there are good secure facilities for yachts, but even in Salvador, when I collected a large sum from the bank to buy food for the Clipper Race, the bank manager would not let me walk the 300 yards back to the sailing centre without an armed guard.

What worries me now is the whole concept of these keels. We had Alex’s break in the first leg, Mike Golding lost his bulb at the end of the Vendee Globe, Bernard’s keel sheered in the Transat, and that’s just from the group in this race. It is all too many failures and shouldn’t someone look at the whole design philosophy behind them?

They are not cheap either, circa Euros 100,000 or more a piece. Where boats are being asked to take on the Southern Ocean the equipment cannot be too delicate. I peer at my own keel more frequently, not that there is likely to be anything you can see.