A Little Too Sacrificial?

Dalton's Club Med limps back to New York - yet another casualty in the prospective Race fleet

Thursday August 3rd 2000, Author: Mark Chisnell, Location: United Kingdom
It was last Friday, 28th July, that Club Med finally left on her second trans-Atlantic crossing. They had given up waiting for a weather window to try and break the record, and were pressing on with the training and development programme. Dalton commented back then, ‘We’ve looked at the weather and don’t believe a record attempt to be possible in the next 10 days. This means that the record is not an achievable objective, so we’re just taking the boat to England as we’ve got to press on with the programme. We’ll push Club Med on the way over as we’re still learning about her and there’s no point pampering the boat at this stage.’
After one false start, when the breeze failed completely and they had to motor back to Block Island to pick up more fuel, Club Med finally set off for England. They had to motor initially, to try and catch up with a low pressure system. They succeeded, finding breeze and tearing towards England at 25 to 30 knots. Dalton reported, ‘we will have good fast sailing and that will put the kind of stresses we need to continue putting onto the boat to help us increase the boat’s reliability, which I believe more and more is a key to the Race.’

Dalton’s words were prophetic, as on August 1st, the sacrificial bow snapped off the port hull. Sometimes called a crash box, the very front of the bow is a completely separate structure to the main hull. Glued in place, it is designed to break off on impact with a solid object - a floating container or iceberg. A bit like the crumple zone in a car, the idea is that the crash box takes the worst of the impact, leaving the boat watertight and structurally sound. It achieved that, and the boat was safely headed back towards Newport today.

The question for the crew is whether or not they did actually hit something, or if the bow broke off too easily. Unfortunately, the offending piece of composite carbon is floating around the North Atlantic and unable to tell the full story. However, Gilles Ollier design team member Yann Penfornis was quoted as saying, ‘The photos that we have been able to see suggest an impact. The crash-box of the bow is torn diagonally, tearing the carbon around it. The piece of missing bow is very short because it is sectioned over a length of 1.50 metres on the top of the hull and 3 metres on the bottom. Our team will be in New York from Thursday to assess the damage and to search for further explanations.’ The repair is expected to take a month, but shouldn’t interfere too much with Club Med’s programme, as she was due for a complete refit anyway. But after the dramatic failures that have already befallen Steve Fossett's PlayStation and Pete Goss' Team Philips, the sceptics will be having a field day.

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