Gurra Krantz explains what happened when Team SEB’s worst possible nightmare came true.

Gurra Krantz explains what happened when Team SEB’s worst possible nightmare came true

When the boat went over and the mast snapped, tears were not far away because we knew the whole thing ‘was over’. It certainly is a sad day for the project and all individuals working so hard to do their best. The race for a top spot is over. We now have to concentrate on getting good results and see how far it takes us. What has put us in this situation? Was it gear failure? No. Just too much wind at one stage in combination with really bad waves.

Conditions were as hard as one can only imagine. Snow storms and winds up to 48 knots in the squalls. Really freaky waves as always down here. We had a storm chute, small jiffy reef in the main and a storm jib in the foil, just in case. The gradient wind varied from 28-32 knots. Conditions change from very hard to severe in just a few seconds. Pitch black, snow and the power of the wind just became too much. The spinnaker was rigged with a ‘martin breaker’ [emergency release to trigger the shackle that holds the spinnaker at the spinnaker pole, can be operated from the deck]. We did not even have time to release the spinnaker with the ‘martin breaker’ when the wind shift and strong gust with snow came in. We went flat on our side the wrong way and I believe, had the rig not broken, we could have totally submerged the boat. The big waves came in through the companionway. The rig did not have a failure itself: it was a result of us being knocked over. We do not know whether it was hitting the mast in the water and overloading it, or something else that caused the mast to break. But we do know that the likely speed of SEB when the rig hit the water was 27 knots, sot the the loads on the rig must have been enormous.

After this giant hand pulled the boat over, water flooded through the hatch and then there was a first bang, which was followed by the sound of breaking carbon. The hull that was over at 90 degrees then righted but the rig gave away over the side. The terrible noise of breaking parts and water moving around inside was left for us. A quick check that everybody was still onboard and not injured took away the first knot in the stomach. We then went ahead and tried to get the rig organised and back onboard but it seemed too dangerous after a while. The splinters of damaged parts of carbon were everywhere and just waited to cut somebody up. To wait four hours for daylight was not an option. By then the hull would have been severely damaged. The waves were doing their best to increase the damages when the mast tube was crushing on the sheer line. By far the safest option was to let it go. The mast was broken three feet above the gooseneck, which didn’t leave us much to hoist on. A quick clean up and the hoist of the trysail ended that part of this tragic event for SEB.

We have now constructed a better jury rig and speed through the water is eight knots. We are actually running a schooner now and probably breaking every VO60 rule there is.

Gurra Krantz SEB