Leopard breaks rudder

Aft compartment flooded 600 miles from Lands End

Tuesday April 2nd 2002, Author: Peter Bentley, Location: Transoceanic
At 1144 BST this morning Falmouth Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Falmouth received a call from the owners of Leopard of London that she had broken her rudder 600 miles south west of Land's End, while returning to the UK.

At present it is unclear whether the rudder broke through structural failure or a collision, but the breakage caused the lazarette to flood rapidly. John Rossiter, watch officer at the MRCC in Falmouth said that the conditions at the time were "a good force eight with a 7m swell running". Leopard issued a Mayday and the MRCC had several ships stand by. "They thought they were going to lose her," commented Rossiter, adding that Leopard's skipper was not happy about transferring his seven crew across to another vessel in the conditions.

By late afternoon the flooding had been contained by pumps and the MRCC released the ships standing by her. Leopoard's owners have despatched a tug from the UK to tow the stricken vessel back to the UK, although it is not clear where they will be taking her. The MRCC are expecting her back in the UK by Friday and will be monitoring her progress.

The 90 ft ocean racing maxi was built by Green Marine at Spitfire Quay, Southampton. Racing under the name Skandia Leopard the innovative carbon fibre, water ballasted yacht has been a regular competitor for line honours and records in many of the inshore and offshore classic events.

Designed as an ultimate, high performance racer capable of beating the fastest yachts in the world, Leopard also boasts a standard of luxury on board that rivals the best superyachts thanks to the latest construction and engineering techniques.

Leopard was designed by the Reichel Pugh partnership, famed for many successful racing yachts including the 1992 America's Cup winning yacht America 3 . Her carbon hull weighs little more than two tonnes and her 90ft x 21ft 6ins deck was light enough to be lifted out of the shed by just eight people. She is equipped with a water ballast system that allows four tonnes of water to be pumped into tanks positioned high in the topsides and transfer it from one side of the hull to the other within 90 seconds, each time she tacks.

The rudder however appears to have been unequal to the task.

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