The Spanish VOR yacht, movistar reached Portugal yesterday to carry out inspection and repair work to structural damage which occurred during the first 24 hours of the race

The Spanish VOR yacht, movistar reached port in Portimao, Algarve, Portugal yesterday to carry out inspection and repair work to structural damage which occurred during the first 24 hours of the race. According to reports yesterday the yacht had a fractured a keel ram shelf – the support that carries the fixed end of one of the massive hydraulic rams that actuate the swinging keel, and a badly buckled bulkhead.

For the crew of movistar arriving in Portugal there emotions were mixed with feelings of happiness that they’d saved the boat and that no harm had to come to any of them, but disappointment that such a serious problem had occurred particularly after having put themselves and the boat through so much training prior to the event since March in all kinds of wind and sea conditions.

According to a report this morning the maintenance team, who had travelled
through the night from their base in Sanxenxo to the south of Portugal, immediately took the boat out of the water and, together with Pedro Campos and team, analysed the damage and drew up a team strategy for reaching Cape Town with a 100 percent chance of fighting for victory in the next off-shore stages and inshore regattas.

When he appeared before the media yesterday afternoon, Campos – the team’s general manager – explained: “We are much happier now. Obviously we have been sending out messages of calm in this time. But when you have got a boat in the middle of a storm with structural damage that you do not know the full extent of, there is always a factor of risk and the first concern is for the ten members of the crew aboard. The boat had made it in one piece, without suffering any more damage. All the equipment is working fine. I’m talking about the electronics, the sails; there hasn’t been any other damage.

“We will take a decision tomorrow [Tuesday] at mid-day, depending on the report we get from the technical people on the scope of the damage and its possible repair. For now, we are keeping all our options open – from the most favourable, which would be to get straight back to the regatta, – to the most complicated one; ie send the boat to South Africa. But all based on a single clear objective: to continue in the competition.”

Concerning the fate of the rest of the fleet, Campos continued: “From what we have seen so far, the regatta is going to a long one and a tough one. Given the speed of the boats, and although we wouldn’t wish it on anyone, there will probably be more incidents.”

Chatting about the shock of the situation and what happened to the yacht movistar trimmer Xabi Fernandez remarked: “Our feelings were very good. Before the crash, we were going better than the rest, I do not know if this was because our boat is faster, or simply because they do have the confidence to maintain a high speed for very long periods of time. As
soon as we left the Vigo Estuary, we overtook the Ericsson, and from there, we started pulling away from the rest of the fleet, except for the ABN AMRO 1 that sailed alongside us for several hours. We passed them at night, a mere 100 metres away, close enough to see that they were sailing with a small jib, while we were flying an asymmetric spy.

“We were coming over a wave when we heard an enormous crack and, right away we realised that we had broken something. It was a real hammer blow because we had been sailing fine until them, fast and comfortable, with speeds of over 30 knots. We have seen that the boat is really competitive.”

Team bowman, Pepe Ribes added: “The feelings you get in the boat are amazing. What has happened was just bad luck. As soon as we saw that we had structural damage, we realised that we would have to return to shore. It never occurred to us to carry on. From that moment on, the thing was to survive. With regard to the start, from the boat, it was spectacular. I was in the last race in Southampton and I can assure you that there were more people in Vigo, much more atmosphere. It was just amazing.”

Skipper Bouwe Bekking declares: “Despite what has happened to us, the balance so far could not be more positive, the boat proved to be highly competitive in light winds, as we showed from the moment we left the Vigo Estuary, and when the wind rose in strength, we were better. Concerning the problem that we have had, the only thing I can say is that we had sailed in these conditions, and even worse, before, and everything was fine. We were sailing hard, at competition speed, but not enough to suffer a break like this. At the moment, I cannot explain the reasons that caused it.

“Right from the first moment, we decided that the best thing was to head for port because we had winds of up to 40 knots and the forecast was that it would get worse, and with structural damage, it did not make any sense to run any risks, especially as the competition has only just started and there are many months, thousands of miles and points at stake ahead of us.”

“Yesterday, of course, everything looked pretty bleak after the initial shock, but as we approached port, we started to calm down and we have arrived with a very different view now. Of course it is better that it happens on the first day and so close to home, that way, it has been easier from the logistical point of view.

“We decided to come here for several reasons: first of all, because we save 150 miles, and secondly, because the ABN AMRO had been here, so we knew the capacity of the port and the willingness of the people that work here. I would like to congratulate the whole team, not just the crew, but the whole shore team and our families, because their reaction has been exemplary. They are making everything so much easier for us. We are all keeping our heads held high.”