More damage for accident prone Leopard

More serious damage will take months to repair

Wednesday May 8th 2002, Author: Peter Bentley, Location: United Kingdom

Leopard lying partially on her side aboard Condock III

Mike Slade's maxi-yacht Leopard suffered serious damage when she slipped from her cradle and partially fell from the deck of the specialist yacht transport ship Condock III on Monday night. According to the yacht's skipper, Chris Sherlock, "the damage is quite severe."

Simply looking at the damaged yacht provides few clues as to what happened. Leopard appears to have moved between five and seven metres sideways, allowing the keel to drop over the side of the hatch-covers where she was originally secured. The topsides came to rest against the ship's crane while the keel bulb struck a substantial crate containing cast iron container parts. The crate and its contents cushioned the blow, while the crane in all probability prevented Leopard from simply falling over the side. The aft cradle was crushed while the forward cradle remained intact punching a very substantial hole in the port side of the hull forward. Indeed so serious was this impact that the cradle was cut away before any attempt was made to lift Leopard from the ship.

This accident follows directly from the loss of Leopard's rudder three weeks ago. Following her abandonment in the Atlantic, Leopard was towed to la Coruna in Northern Spain. Following limited repairs to seal the hole where the rudder shaft had been, it was decided to ship Leopard back from La Coruna to Southampton. Respected yacht transport company Peters and May were contracted for this task.

A cradle was shipped out from England prior to the damaged yacht being loaded onto the ship. According to Sherlock, "it wasn't our cradle." Leopard's insurers were sufficiently concerned about the shipment to insist on the arrangements being checked before Condock III left La Coruna. "The whole thing was approved by the ship's Master and a Salvage Association surveyor," say Peters and May's Commercial Director, Nick Webster.

Although Sherlock described the weather as, "bad" when Condock III left port, Webster says, "it was only a force five." Webster went on to say that Peters and May had used Condock III on several occasions before and that she had survived worse weather without mishap. Following the accident, the ship diverted to Gigon, where a further assessment of the situation was made. Additional lashings were placed around Leopard and after yet more checks, the ship sailed to Southampton.

Though there is inevitably much speculation as to what caused Leopard to crash to the deck, Sherlock is determined that no one should jump to conclusions. "No one actually saw what happened," he says, pointing out that it is up to the insurance assessors to work out who is at fault.

Leopard certainly looked a sorry sight as she lay half on the deck of Condock III waiting to be lifted. Damage on the starboard side is restricted to two holes apparently made by the ship's crane as Leopard came to rest. Damage on the port side is much more serious however. In addition to the damage where the forward cradle has punched a hole in the hull there is an extensive area of other damage aft where the hull has come to rest on the deck of the ship. To this of course must be added the water damage already incurred due to flooding in the earlier accident.

Though he concedes that the future of Leopard now lies in the hands of the insurers, Sherlock is hopeful that she will be repaired. "Everything can be fixed," he says with a remarkable cheerfulness. "It is my belief that it will be fixed and we will be sailing by Christmas time."

Following negotiations between various parties as to who was responsible for any damage done during the unloading process, Leopard was due to be lifted onto the dockside late this afternoon. Staff from Hamble Yacht Services were standing by ready to remove the keel, after which the intention was to move Leopard by barge to Hamble. "We already had five weeks work booked at Hamble Yacht Services," says Sherlock, before adding wistfully, "I guess it will be a bit more than that now."

The ship's Master was not available for comment.

The two cranes ready to lift

Page two and three.... more pictures.

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