Forehatch pops open on Kingfisher; then the keel starts to swing freely.
Can it get any harder? Of course it can.
After 24 hours of hard beating, Kingfisher passed through the cold front that had brought the last few hours of discomfort and rough conditions.
The wind swung round to the North West and Kingfisher was charging along directly towards Guadeloupe still 1,700 miles away.
The first problem to spoil the morning was to find that the forward hatch had been sprung slightly open, possibly aided by the violent motion of the boat in what were very confused seas. That meant water down below in quantities that were indeed a problem.
Whilst just getting on top of this issue, everything was suddenly overshadowed by a much bigger event. With a sudden lurch, the boat took on a very different motion and it quickly became apparent that the keel was no longer stationery.
Kingfisher has a swing keel – this means, in basic terms, that it is designed to swing laterally in order to keep the boat more upright and therefore faster. The swing is controlled by a hydraulic system that uses rams to pivot the keel from one side to the other depending on which tack you are on.
A failure in the hydraulic system of this kind meant that the keel was then able to swing freely from side to side, limited only by the resistance of the water. Potentially a very dangerous situation, dangerous enough in the first instance to inform the race organisation of the situation.
After pulling the boat in the direction and sail configuration that gave the maximum stability an already tired MacArthur set out to investigate the cause of this setback. After a few moments of anxiety and stress, she soon became focused on looking for the solution. She is now working hard on implementing a system to at least block the keel in one position. She estimates this might take another four or five hours of downtime to successfully put in place, but hopes, really hopes, that she will be able to continue in a competitive way in the race in which she is still leading her class.
Whilst safety is uppermost in everyone’s minds, it does seem that the initial dangers have subsided.
Conditions have moderated to 20 knots from the North West and MacArthur is currently making a course to the South to give her the best working conditions to resolve this difficult problem.
Her investigations inside the keel box showed that one of the hydraulic pipes furthest from the keel itself had ruptured, hence a loss of oil pressure and a loss of control on the keel. She is now up to her elbows in oil (and a bit of salt water!) but getting on with solving the problem in true MacArthur fashion.