Latest news in the V5O - Knox-Johnston forced to bear away to bail out water from a flooded sail locker 19/4/07

The latest news from the Velux 5 Oceans race is that Robin Knox-Johnston is busy bailing out water from a flooded sail locker.

With a sense of urgency in his voice, Knox-Johnston was speaking to the organizers of the Velux 5 Oceans on the satellite phone, and said: “I just don’t know where it’s coming from.”

The sail locker on Saga Insurance extends from the mast bulkhead – directly below the mast – to the crash bulkhead aft of the bow. Accessible via a small round hatch on the foredeck and an equally small hatch in the mast bulkhead, it is a dark, airless compartment, short of hand holds and not a good place to linger when the boat is slamming through the ocean.

The weather conditions have changed considerably since the fleet left the startline, as Robin said: “It’s north-east, Force 4 or 5 [11-16/17-21 nautical mph]. It’s going to be like this for a couple of days, I think.” He is heading south-east, away from the rest of the pack, and explains: “I needed to bear away to do some bailing.”

Knox-Johnston must now spend hours emptying water from the sail locker and shifting sails stored below, tracing the leak and wedged in the foredeck hatch emptying buckets over the side. His decision to head off the wind means he has limited the slamming motion of Saga Insurance to speed this operation.

The Velux 5 Oceans organisers believe an explanation for the flood is a leaking ballast tank or a faulty connection in one of the network of hoses feeding and draining seawater from these carbon fibre compartments. On Saga Insurance, Knox-Johnston can fill two carbon fibre ballast tanks in the sail locker with water, increasing the yacht’s ability to punch through waves upwind. Seawater is fed to the tanks via small scoops lowered through the bottom of the hull and pumped into the tanks using the engine. To empty the tanks, the water drains aft through pipes leading to holes in the transom. Whatever the cause of this water ingress, Knox-Johnston is determined to fix the problem quickly before too many miles are lost.