A broken D2 stays forces Mike Sanderson’s team to head for Madagascar - is this a new weak link for VO70s?

Having taken a flyer to the north as the rest of the fleet headed south on the leg from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi, Mike Sanderson’s Team Sanya had taken a huge jump of more than 150nm on the rest of the fleet before catastrophe struck as their D2 stay broke. Fortunately they managed to identify the problem and have kept the mast intact, but the failure could have big implications for their future participation in the race.

Team Sanya is fitted with the same rigging as was originally on Ian Walker’s Abu Dhabi. While their dismasting was believed to be a result of a checkstay failure, later analysis revealed that a D2 stay had also broken although the reasons for this failure were unknown. Following the failure, Walker took the decision to replace the continuous carbon rigging with a discontinuous configuration which meant re building all but the top spreaders.

“We also broke one of the D2 stays, but we don’t know exactly how or why this particular stay broke,” he told YW (See Feb 12 issue Leading Edge out 10 Jan). “Since the incident we have examined the broken parts and tested the rigging extensively, but we cannot get the rigging to fail anywhere near the predicted loads. The fact that we had covered so few miles with this rig suggests that it wasn’t fatigue.

“It was a hard decision to make, but in the end we felt more comfortable with diagonals that articulated on the leeward side when slack and that could be removed and replaced if necessary without removing all the standing rigging,” he continued.

Team Sanya, also forced to retire from the first leg with structural problems to her bow, remained with the continuous rigging system.

The news comes as a huge blow, not just to a team that has yet to put any offshore points on the board, but to the organisers who are on an extremely tight deadline given the shipping arrangements to get the fleet through the pirate strewn areas of the Indian Ocean. Whether Sanya can continue to take part in leg 2 remains to be seen, but with the fleet making slow and frustrating progress towards the first shipping point, their future in the race looks grim.

This is the fifth rigging failure of the event so far and while one was due to crew error, the problems have raised concern that standing rigging could prove to be the weak link in this third generation of VO70s.

The Feb 12 issue of Leading Edge in YW talks to the sailors and industry specialists and discovers that there is growing concern that the reasons behind these failures are unknown.

Volvo press report this morning:

‘Team Sanya suffered damage to part of their rigging early on Monday and are heading to a port in southern Madagascar in order to assess the damage and make a repair plan. No one has been injured and the crew are all safe.

Sanya noticed the damage to one of the stays on the mast during a sail change on Leg 2 from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi and contacted Race Management.

The boat is fully under control with the mast still upright and is still able to sail to shore.

“We were just out of the major breeze and changing sails from the J4 to the fractional zero and were in wind speeds of around 12-14 knots when we noticed a vital piece of rigging loose from the mast (D2),” said skipper and team CEO Mike Sanderson.

“We had had an awesome night’s racing and were totally hauling and making massive gains so we were very upbeat with our progress.

“The weather was turning for the better and so we were happy in our decisions and general progress. We had been due to tack an hour earlier in the darkness but had delayed that given the conditions and for sure if we had done that, the rig would have fallen over the side.
“As you can imagine we are totally gutted and can’t quite believe this has happened when everything was going so well.”

A spokesman for Dryad Maritime Intelligence Service said the port is not considered to be at high risk from piracy.