No time to lose
As soon as the mast was deemed to be 'repairable' by Gilles Ollier and his engineers, they set to work. Fortunately Multiplast had hung on to the original moulds for the wingmast and it was decided that they would build a new 4-metre top section to the carbon fibre wing. Since then it has been a race against the clock to get it ready so that Peyron and his crew and hightail it round the world in attempt to catch up Olivier de Kersauson on Geronimo.
At Multiplast a team immediately started to process the raw material stored in the cold room - pre-preg carbon fibre which must be kept at a low temperature -, while another group set off to procure additional materials they needed from a supplier almost 400km away from the yard.
In the meantime, they started the simultaneous operations of building the two halves of the mast. During the day the workshop technicians built up the sandwich by laying pre-preg cloth and the Nomex honeycomb core in the two half-moulds of the mast. At night, the design office staff took over to monitor the oven curing operations.
Once the two four metre long halves were made, they were laminated together both inside and out to form the finished shape. Then this section was then grafted onto the end of the mast, again by laminating it on the inside and out, then baking the join with heating blankets at 120°C. Finally, the masthead was rebonded on in the same way - the result is a new mast like new.
With the three parts assembled, the mast was ultrasonically tested before painting, to guarantee the repair was sound and to ensure that it will be as reliable as a new mast.
"If we've gained a week over the forecast time it is quite simply because a genuine spirit of enthusiasm surged through the whole company and the entire team was amazing, taking it in turns day and night so that Orange could report again to the starting line of the Jules Verne Trophy. All this was possible because technically the repair was relatively simple and that it all went ahead without a hitch," explained Multiplast's Gilles Ollier. Orange's mast will be re-stepped this Friday (1 March). That same evening, the maxi-catamaran will leave the Multiplast yard to head for the Jules Verne Trophy start line off Ushant and, conveniently for skipper Bruno Peyron another weather window looks like opening up for them on Saturday morning.