More on the Kingfisher breakage

Ellen reports on the damage

Friday February 9th 2001, Author: Kingfisher Challenges, Location: United Kingdom
After the initial report of the damage, Kingfisher Challenges have provided more detail on the incident.
Sailing the boat slowly, well below its potential, in order to preserve the mast and her chances of completing the Vendee Globe has become a tough mental challenge for Ellen - never content if the boat is not happy and fast... She is restricted to two reefs and solent, and the gennaker only if conditions are very stable (one wipeout with the gennaker could risk further damage to the mast).

Ellen is hoping for increased winds that will mean her 'safe' reduced sail configuration (two reefs and Solent jib) will send her off down the waves with sufficient power that she won't miss the rest of the sail area. Unfortunately yesterday, the wind gods didn't play, and she was often making as little as six knots towards Les Sables - a depressing ETA calculation.

Tactically, Ellen had no wish to share this bad news for the past 36 hours; "I didn't want to give Mich a reason to ease off, he could equally suffer gear failure if he pushes...and I didn't want to give Bilou a reason to attack harder than he would normally at this late stage in the race. However, as one can see my heading and speed have dropped away compared with Mich, I decided it was time to share this bad news. I now have to just focus on finishing in the top three, its a long hard way to the finish still, and its been a difficult ten days. I'm ready to finish"

If Ellen does complete the course in the next few days, she will be the youngest ever competitor to finish, and the fastest woman around the planet - and only the second solo sailor to get around the globe in less than 100 days... but we'll wait for that finishing line before getting too excited.

See latest positions below

Interview with Richard Simmonds last night, 24 hours after the rigging failure.

RS : Can you tell us about the last 24 hours?

EM : Things were a little bit tough when we came out of the back of the depression that was ahead of us. We'd had very strong winds, and we'd been making very good progress, and although the weather was very rough it was good to be heading on the direct route to Les Sables d'Olonne. Unfortunately yesterday afternoon when the wind died I decided it was time to pull out the genoa, and I bore away as I always do and unfurled the sail, sheeted in, and luffed up with the pilot, and just as the boat was luffing up there was a horrendous bang - I realised what had happened straight away, I bore away, and there was one very sloppy forestay. I managed to furl the sail, and we had a conference call with the designers and we talked to [Southern Spars in New Zealand] the guy who designed the rig [what sail I could safely have up, what the risks of the mast breaking were]. So now we're limping along....

RS : How does that effect your strategy between now and the finish?

EM : My strategy between now and the finish is just to get there.

Technical Background

The mast is supported forwards by two forestays, each of which has a furling headsail on, the genoa at the top and outside and the solent inside and below. Fatigue is the most likely cause of the failure of the genoa forestay, the solent forestay remains intact and is holding the mast up - but clearly she can only use this sail.

Because the genoa is permanently attached to the forestay there are safety strops at the top holding the sail to the mast, these have held even after the forestay broke - though they clearly are not strong enough for Ellen to unfurl and use the sail.

It's extremely fortunate that she is sailing downwind, the genoa forestay is not doing much at this time. If she turns upwind she will be forced to use just the solent, and cannot rig full sail without excessively loading the top of the mast. In basic terms she is sailing the boat to the finish at maybe 50 to 60% of its potential at most. It means its very frustrating for someone who raced so hard around the world and then has to nurse her boat to the final finish line...

Latest positions at 1000 hrs 09/2/01:

1 PRB, Michel Desjoyeaux 404 to finish
2 Kingfisher, Ellen MacArthur +285
3 Sill Matines & La Potagère, Roland Jourdain +1047
4 Active Wear, Marc Thiercelin +1295
5 Union Bancaire Privée, Dominique Wavre +1761
6 Sodebo Savourons la Vie, Thomas Coville +1770
7 Whirlpool, Catherine Chabaud +2165
8 Team Group 4, Mike Golding +2957
9 EBP - Défi PME - Gartmore, Josh Hall +3098

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