Orange is delaminating

Problems with aft cross-beam

Tuesday April 2nd 2002, Author: Peter Bentley, Location: Transoceanic
Position at 0802 this morning: 134deg 54E 50deg 44S
Distance covered in last 24 hours 408.46 miles

Bruno Peyron has now thrown more light onto the problems with Orange's aft beam first brought to light in Nick Moloney's message yesterday. "We had a little problem that could have had more serious consequences," reports Peyron

Four days ago Orange suffered a delamination problem with a part of the aft beam fairing. In addition two inside bulkheads were cracked all due to the exposed position of the beam and the very violent slamming of the waves against it. After diagnosis, and repair, the problem has now been resolved and Orange has been able to get back into her stride.

"The aft beam fairing had delaminated in the area that gets the onslaught of the waves. Rather like what they experienced on Team Adventure in The Race, but less serious," wrote Bruno Peyron in an e-mail from the boat. Happily the damage wasn't as serious as it first seemed when it was found during one of the systematic check-ups of the boat.

Composite wizard Yves Le Blevec noticed the problem first when looking from the access to the aft beam from inside the Video room in the port hull. "The honeycomb core had collapsed due to the slamming of the waves", explained Philippe Peche who assisted Yves with the repairs. "Then, the inner and outer skins started to peel and little fibres of carbon were even beginning to hang on the outside of the beam. But thankfully it wasn't too serious because we noticed the problem in time, but it's clear, if we hadn't noticed it, it could have become much more serious!"

According to Peyron, the repair was a work of art. "They started by cleaning the zone, then laminated a patch inside the beam, then mended the cracked bulkheads, then Yves made a part in carbon that he applied on the outside of the beam, which was bolted and bonded with a carbon backing piece on the inside. And all that with the difficulties you can imagine, like working inside the beam, at 20 knots, in a crossed seaway and with an air temperature of around 7 or 8¡C! We diverted the heating duct to favour the lamination process with a system for extracting the air at the same time. A real yard job!"

All in all the problem took about twenty hours to sort out and may influence the way the boat is sailed for the remainder of the voyage. "We'll have to keep an eye on this weakened zone, and in any case it has caused us to lift our foot off a bit until we feel comfortable with it," says Peyron.

The prevailing westerly is continuing and Orange remains slightly ahead of schedule for the record.

French records expert Christian Fevrier adds: Interestingly today, we are lucky as Sport Elec and Orange are at the same latitude, after 31 days at sea.

Sport Elec on her 1997 record attempt was at 50deg 48S 118 deg 23E while Orange is at 50deg 44S 134deg 54E. This shows Orange to be 628 miles ahead (and not 2,340 miles as the Orange press office are still indicating).

They should have good westerlies now and increase their average speed. No doubt they should beat the record easily, but, to beat ENZA's time from 1993 between Ushant and Leeuwin by only 8 hours and 39 minutes is not really a glory for such a much modern and longer machine.

At this point on ENZA's voyage, the crew had to divert their track to the north to sail close to Australia and New Zealand as Peter Blake spent a week in his bed, with his back badly injured. They were ready in NZ to send an helicopter to pick him up. In the end they didn't, but drom the south of New Zealand, they fell into a bad system which was very costly in time.

For another photo of Orange - see page 2...

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