A problem with the main rudder cassette aboard the B&Q caused concern for Ellen MacArthur on day five of her world speed record challenge

A problem with the main rudder cassette aboard the B&Q caused concern for Ellen MacArthur on day five of her world speed record challenge but a quick fix it job has put her back on track.

Yesterday morning, Ellen noticed a slight movement in the main rudder cassette box at the stern of the main hull. The cassette box houses the top part of the rudder which is designed to ‘kick-up’ [ie flip up by 90 degrees] if it collides with anything. The fuses, or fittings, that hold the rudder down are replaced if this happens.

On Monday, Ellen reported the rudder had ‘kicked up’ although she could not confirm the reason why, whether it was a collision with debris or the rough conditions at the start that over-stressed the fuses. Ellen managed to replace the fuses and get the rudder back down. However, the recent discovery of the movement, albeit minimal (1mm) prompted Ellen to investigate further.

Working with her weather routers overnight, Ellen took a course slightly further west to get to lighter winds and flatter seas and managed to slow B&Q enough for one hour this morning at approx 0900 GMT to make a thorough check. Later in a phonecall to her shore team, she reported there was no damage to the rudder, the fuses or the cassette box. Ellen is planning to insert ‘wedges’ to minimise the movement and reduce the creaking noise being generated by the movement of the rudder cassette box at the transom. She will continue to monitor any further movement.

Ellen’s fast progress has been temporarily slowed but she is back on track heading to the next landmark of the Cape Verde Islands – approx 560 miles along the race track. The breeze is forecast to clock further round to the right (NNE) and Ellen will need to put in a gybe back on to port around 1800 GMT tonight. Current routing models predict Ellen will cross the Equator on Tuesday – her 9th day at sea – and is in with a chance of setting a new Equator record.

Ellen log at 1300 GMT

Well, I think that last night was my first real sleep since leaving a few days ago – and though I felt pretty groggy as the sun came up, I knew that it had been very, very necessary. Trying to sleep on poor B&Q who is relentlessly powering through the oceans is far from easy – this was never going to be an easy record to break.

Now I think, and maybe just in the past few days, I realise what the scale of the task really is… I have felt under immense pressure since leaving – the pressure of that clock that never stops, and those minutes that never stop flowing. I’ve felt nervous, and tired, and generally pretty damn stressed since we left too. I’ve rarely felt any sign of hunger – though luckily have been doing this long enough now to realise that I need to just eat anyway – and luckily I have done that. That’s at least one part of me that is working correctly and that’s a start at least!

We have had our fair share of problems since leaving ranging from leaks in the water system, to a dangerous creaking noise from the rudders. Some frighten the life out of you and others just make you realise that the list of things out here never ever stops. Each problem is just a few more grams of your energy gently sapping away…

The big storm we just went though was good for me I think, as it made me go into ‘surviuval mode’ into the ‘just get to the other side mode’ which at least stopped me thinking about all the stressful things. There’s nothing like a gust over 45 knots to focus the mind on what is important in that moment!

But today whilst hanging off the back of the boat, whilst lifting the main rudder out of the water I was taken up sharp. I had my head in the rudder cassette box, looking for damage in the case, but as I looked down I saw a mesmerising flow of bright blue water flying beneath her hull. Such a contrast it was to the stressful hour of slowing the boat down for repairs – that I smiled out loud (if you can do that!) and lent down to touch this beautiful miracle of life. Just water – but in that second it was priceless….

So, time for bed now. I need to sleep as much as I possibly can as the weather is relatively stable. Having said that though the winds been up to 25 knots and down to 16 since I’ve been typing this mail…

later then