Friday, 23 March 2012

Team Sanya’s setback in the Southern Ocean

Sanya's rudderstock, broken after sustaining damage.
Credit: Andres Soriano/Team Sanya/Volvo Ocean Race).
Mike Sanderson's Team Sanya has had the door slammed in its face again. The team, which was leading leg five from Auckland to Itajaí in Brazil, reported the damage to race control in Alicante at 0800hrs after the rudderstock sheared off.

Speaking on his Inmarsat IsatPhone Pro, Sanderson first reported that all the crew were safe and that the breakage happened as they were travelling at high speed.

Huge forces were put on the two rudders as the helm weaved through the ocean swell like an out of control rollercoaster.

Sheared off
The starboard rudderstock sheared off inside the hull. Sanya was immediately sent spinning into a crash gybe, pinning them down on one side with sails in the water - a manoeuvre that I'm all too familiar with.

Have a look at the footage I filmed during the last race in the Southern Ocean when we crash gybed on board Team Russia - it's called "Team Russia Chinese Gybe - Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09" on YouTube.

The next thing that happens when you break a rudder is that you now have a large hole in the back of the boat. Water pours into the aft compartment.

Urgent priority
Still weighing up his team's immediate options, Sanderson said the most urgent priority had been to plug the hole torn in the aft of the boat when the rudderstock snapped.

"We've been in preservation mode for the past few hours," he said. "We had to save the boat.

"The rudder snapped between the boat and the deck, which is just the worst thing that can happen because then it just leverages itself off the boat and leaves a pretty messy trail.

Stacked aft
"The thing is we had all the sails stacked aft on deck, and we had the aft ballast tank and all the gear stacked downstairs in the back of the boat," Sanderson said.

"So as soon as we stopped water just started rushing in. It is the second time we've heard water coming into the boat at that sort of pace, so it is pretty scary.

"The whole aft compartment was full of water - about three to four tonnes.

Impressive result
"This setback is all the more difficult to stomach after their impressive result against the new addition boats."

Sanderson proudly remarked: "We won the pro-am race, we were placed fourth in the in-port race and we led the fleet out of Auckland," he said.

"We were really pleased we were in the lead and in a really nice spot to extend it.

Nice conditions
"We were sailing along pretty fast, between 20-30 knots in nice conditions with winds gutting up to 30 knots, when these boats are at their fastest," he said.

"We're just gutted. It hasn't even quite sunk in for sure. But first and foremost is to ensure everyone is safe and well.

"The guys have just finished fixing the hole, which has taken a couple of hours and we've fitted the emergency steering.

"But we're not out of the woods yet - we've got a temporary repair on the back of the boat and we have plenty of work ahead of us," said Mike.

Mark Covell

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