Damaged rudder as Orange II hits whale

Bruno Peyron called Race Headquarters yesterday evening to announce that the maxi-catamaran Orange II had just had a violent collision with a whale or an orca whilst making between 25 and 30 knots off the Argentinian coast.

It was between 1700 and 1800 GMT, when the boat hit a big sea creature, initially with the port daggerboard, then with the rudder. Contacted shortly after 1900 GMT, Bruno Peyron confirmed this double impact, adding that the boat was continuing on course downwind.

The news this morning shows that after an inspection the hull has some delamination across 30cms of the leading edge of the port rudder. Peyron commented: “It was a very violent impact, a bit like when you run up on the sand or hit a rock. We immediately saw a fin in our wake, probably that of an orca or a whale.”

The immediate danger is that the rudder is continuing to deteriorate as it opens up at the front. Yves le Blevec, onboard specialist in composite materials, is making numerous exchanges with the Multiplast yard so as to envisage any possible repair solutions.

Given his comfortable lead, Peyron has decided to slow up the pace, while waiting for the outcome of this exchange: “We’re not forcing the boat along anymore. We’re sailing with the boat flat so as not to put too much stress on the damaged appendage.”

The rudder on a maxi-catamaran like Orange 2 is an enormous piece of composite measuring over 3.50m, including the rudder stock. Removing it and then replacing it after lamination in the middle of the ocean is a major operation. “We are ready for anything” affirms the skipper. Our record attempt continues. The key word is vigilance in order to quickly detect any increase in vibrations at the helm.

Peyron is waiting for the sea and wind state to calm down over the next 48 hours to decide on a possible intervention on the damaged appendage, as the climb up towards Ushant and the finish line will be made predominantly on starboard tack. Bruno Peyron: “The good news is that had we hit something harder like a container, the damage could have been very considerable. We have suffered no structural damage. Unfortunately the climb up the Atlantic must be made on the damaged tack. Though we must continue to hobble along on this record attempt, our lead is sufficiently comfortable that we don’t feel it is in danger. It’s the sport that is in danger in the sense that we are no longer able to sail with the intensity we would have wished.”