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Volvo Ocean Race Team AkzoNobel undertake mast repair + Video

Damage to the track that attaches the mainsail to the back edge of the mast on team AkzoNobel’s Volvo Ocean 65 race boat has forced the crew to slow the boat down as the sailors assess the problem and try to identify potential repair options.

The damage, which was reported to Volvo Ocean Race control by email from team AkzoNobel navigator Jules Salter (GBR) this morning, happened as the crew was in fourth place, gybing along the Antarctic Ice Exclusion Zone (AIEZ) in 35 knots of wind and big seas.

During one gybe from starboard to port the mainsail track on the mast was damaged in two places. The sailors were able to lower the mainsail and turn the boat away from the AIEZ and are continuing to race using the boat’s forward sails only.

There are no reports of any injuries on board as a result of the damage and the crew is liaising with Volvo Ocean Race’s race control staff and the team’s land based technical shore crew to establish what repair options are available to them.

The team reports that the mast track damage to the Volvo Ocean race entry, Team AkzoNobel is not as severe as originally feared.

The gybe ripped the mainsail track from the back edge of the mast, broke several of the mainsail’s carbon battens, and punctured the sail itself in several places. It was captured on film by Volvo Ocean Race on board reporter James Blake (NZL).

In the video watch captain Chris Nicholson (AUS) who was helming at the time describes what went wrong during the gybe.

AkzoNobel crew climb the damaged mast after suffering a sail track issue - now under repair 14 December, 2017 © James Blake / Volvo Ocean Race

AkzoNobel crew climb the damaged mast after suffering a sail track issue – now under repair 14 December, 2017 © James Blake / Volvo Ocean Race

Despite having to slow down and wrestle the enormous sail to the deck in 45 to 50-knot winds and gigantic waves the international crew of seven men and two women has since been quick to assess the damage and formulate a repair plan.

Working in consultation with the team’s technical shore crew and experts from the Volvo Ocean Race Boatyard maintenance facility the sailors have come up with a possible repair scenario to get them back racing at full speed as quickly as possible.

Happily, the mast track is only missing in one place – rather than two, as the sailors had originally feared – after it broke during the windy crash gybe deep in the Southern Ocean close to the Antarctic Ice Exclusion Zone (AIEZ).

That bit of good news may mean the crew can reattach enough of the track using strong epoxy adhesive to eventually be able to use the mainsail at full hoist.

At the 1900 UTC (1800 CET) position update this evening team AkzoNobel was in fifth place, travelling at 20 knots (37 kilometers per hour), 174 nautical miles (322 kilometers) behind the leg leader Dongfeng Race Team (CHN).

This afternoon, in winds gusting up to 45 knots and massive rolling ocean swells, part of the crew has been concentrating on sailing the boat as fast as possible using just headsails , while the others have been working on the repairs to the mast and to several of the horizontal carbon battens that stiffen the sail and help it keep its shape in the wind.

“We had a gybe on in some pretty hard conditions, 35 knots to 40 and had a bad one. I thought we had a good wave to go down and as we were going down and sent the keel through, basically the boat slowed up, stopped, and I should have pulled out of doing it, and we probably would have broached but it wouldn’t have been the outcome that we had which was the main slamming over on the runners, breaking the battens, which was bad,” said watch leader, Chris Nicholson.

“The worst part is we’ve pulled the track off the back of the mast. The guys did an awesome job to get the main down, we were scratching our heads for a little while trying to work out how to get the main down. The squalls were to 50 knots while we were doing it. Fifty knots is a hard ask in the best of times with the boat in perfect condition, and we were far from it, so we did an awesome job everyone, to do that. So now we’ve got it down and we’re discussing how and when we can fix it, trying to keep the boat moving as fast as possible now, we’ve just got a jib up, still probably doing 16 knots in 45 knots of wind. So the plan is hopefully to get the track glued back on, or screwed back on, then we’ve got to repair some battens, [and] the mainsail, over the next day or two and if that all goes to plan we could be up sailing again at a 100%, but it’s going to take time, and we’ve got to be careful.”

AkzoNobel crew climb the damaged mast after suffering a sail track issue - now under repair 14 December, 2017 - photo © James Blake / Volvo Ocean Race

AkzoNobel crew climb the damaged mast after suffering a sail track issue – now under repair 14 December, 2017 – photo © James Blake / Volvo Ocean Race

A three-metre section of track at the bottom of the mast has been removed, sanded and a repair made to the hole at the top where a locator bolt will be inserted tomorrow when the crew plan to epoxy the track back on. Ratchet straps will then be used to hold the section in place while the adhesive sets.

At the 1300 UTC (1400 CET) position update team AkzoNobel was in fifth place, travelling at 20 knots (37 kilometers per hour), 122 nautical miles (226 kilometers) behind the leg leader Dongfeng Race Team.

The issue is different from the DongFeng sail track issues in the previous edition of the race. The back end of the rig was re-designed and tested after the last race – the force of this gybe was such that the sail track has remained attached to the laminate – and the track and its laminate will be glued/screwed back onto the mast. Not an easy task in the extreme conditions.

by team Akzonobel, VOR and Sail-World.com

 

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