After an incredible 24 hours, 22 year old Ellen MacArthur has managed to not only resolve a serious keel problem – she is back pushing hard in the race – and more concerned about the miles lost. Still 1st in Class and 6th monohull overall.

The closest 60 footer, UUNET, has been suffering behind the front (he was further south) and has dropped back to 100 miles astern, despite MacArthur’s severe problems during the past 24 hours. Kingfisher has even managed to claw back a few of the miles she lost to Raphael Dinelli’s SODEBO during her down time yesterday.

I leave the rest to Ellen….

“What a day. What a 24 hours! The night before last was quite tiring with the wind up and down and changing direction all the time. In some ways those conditions are the most tiring, since you cannot rest for more than a few minutes at a time. On taking down the staysail during the night, I discovered that practically the whole leech of the sail had ripped off. I spent 5 hours of the night hand sewing – this was ended abruptly by a tack as we passed the expected cold front, and the wind shifted quickly to the NW allowing us to make heading for the finish. We had been waiting for that front for some time – and the seas and wind had become quite severe. I was desperate to get the staysail mended since I thought I would need it the other side of the front, although before the front I was happy on just the tiny storm jib and a fully reefed mainsail. It was a relief to get through it….but it then went downhill quite quickly….

Beginning with finding water in both the forepeak, and then in the lazarette aft. Very frustrating, as all the sails and the pilots were wet. I shot in to the lazeratte to bail out (pilots being the priority). 30 minutes later I emerged feeling like I’d been through a few washing machine cycles. Then a knock and the boat motion changed, and the sound of a motor driving hard. It was the keel hydraulic system motor – but what with the keel??

I switched off the electrics to get some silence, then examined the inspection hatches on the keel to find the keel swinging freely. I closed the 4 emergency shut-off valves, STILL the keel swang! My heart sank. This was potentially very dangerous, the seas were still quite rough and the boat was moving around a lot. This large lump of lead was swinging freely from side to side. For the first time I had doubts over my ability to solve this one. I called the organisers to inform them of my situation. In doing so I found that I had lost most of the electronics onboard, including the email system and navigational computer – maybe due to the water in the boat. The Mini M phone was all I had left. Thank heavens for that. Yes I was worried, really worried – I have to win this race after all we’ve been through! And this was quite a dangerous moment.

Fortunately, I got my head on to solving the problem. The inside of the boat was a nightmare. Water everywhere, and soon hydraulic oil as well. I had not slept for a long time, and not eaten for sometime. I was still in my survival suit. Fortunately the wind was moderating a bit from the 35 to 40 knots we had the other side of the front. I turned the boat to the best heading to try and keep the keel from swinging too much.

The long process of finding a solution started, in all it took 5 hard hours. I removed the keel floor, (40 odd bolts), and looked in to discover a burst hydraulic pipe. It was still blowing 25 knots and the motion was still bad enough, but I set to tediously filling the reservoir through its breather, and then pumping it back in to the system with various pipes changed over and blanked. Scarey operation after a sleepless night! Hydraulics are not dosile. Anyway, all done and dusted now, although no swing in the keel. I have managed to block it essentially in the middle so it safe – but I have the lost the power that the swing keel gives you. She’s a different boat without this.

Having got this done,