Chilean boat loses rudder

Collision with a submerged object in the Portimão Global Ocean Race

Tuesday May 12th 2009, Author: Ollie Dewar, Location: United Kingdom
Throughout Monday night and early Tuesday morning, the Portimão Global Ocean Race leaders continued to hammer north leaving the Virgin Islands to port with Beluga Racer and Desafio Cabo de Hornos polling speed averages of between 12-14 knots. The scene was set for an enduring fight between the German race leaders and the Chilean team in second place. Then, at 0200 GMT this morning (12/05), the Chilean boat collided with a submerged object. “We are living through the saddest moment of the race so far,” said Felipe Cubillos earlier this morning, before describing the collision: “We were planing along at 20 knots of speed in the dark when the leeward rudder struck something, snapping it in two,” he explains. With the working, submerged, rudder destroyed Desafio Cabo de Hornos span out of control. “We had the spinnaker up and without the rudder we rounded-up and went into a broach,” recalls Cubillos. “After a lot of work we got the boat under control and dropped the main, sailing with the Solent headsail only.”

Having recovered from the collision, Cubillos and Muñoz decided to head for San Juan in Puerto Rico, but by 0400 GMT, the plan had changed. “We have decided to head for Charleston,” stated Cubillos via email. “As we are missing a rudder, the job is a bit complex, but we have 1100 miles to go and we think that we can make it.” Cubillos calculates that his ETA in Charleston is seven days away and there is sufficient food supplies and water on board. “So, we haven’t dropped out of the race and we’re continuing to compete – albeit with just one rudder – and our goal is still to complete this round-the-world race.” The Chilean team our currently organising the fabrication of a replacement rudder in France and shipping the blade to Charleston in time for the start of Leg 5 from Charleston to Portimão. “I have always been enthusiastic in searching for dreams,” adds the Chilean skipper. “It is the very reason for living: it does not have to be a rational dream and that’s why we show so much persistence in obtaining them. That’s why I’m not going to write about them. I’ll just switch on my Ipod and get back on the helm.”

In the latest 0620 GMT position poll this morning (12/05), Boris Herrmann and Felix Oehme on board Beluga Racer are 130 miles north of Puerto Rico averaging 11.6 knots and have extended their overall lead to 106 miles while Cubillos and Muñoz on stricken Desafio Cabo de Hornos are polling just under eight knots. Currently sailing 100 miles due east of Guadeloupe, the fleet’s solo sailor Michel Kleinjans has built up the pace on Open 40 Roaring Forty averaging the same speed as the double-handed, German race leaders and Jeremy Salvesen and David Thomson are making 10.5 knots on Team Mowgli and are enjoying the Trade wind racing despite the 620 mile gap to the double-handed leader. “The Trade Winds finally moved aft for us and we were able to get our spinnaker up and get moving although the winds have still never really been settled,” reported Salvesen yesterday. “There were quite a number of squall clouds around during the day bringing very variable winds and light rain showers,” he explains. “The wind would shift 30 degrees or so and vary in speed from 16 to 25 knots and back again within minutes. Holding our course to the wind was a nightmare!”

However, there is a setback on board. “There have been incredible numbers of flying fish around - most of them landing on Mowgli!” says the British skipper. “I have cleared at least 40 off the decks this morning - before it gets too hot and they start to stink - and that's just the ones that are left behind after all the water that has washed over the decks in the meantime!” The prospect of Caribbean, though, sushi is slight. “They are all tiny, so no prospect of a fish supper tonight sadly,” he adds.

The increase in wildlife as the fleet approach the warm, nutrient-rich waters of the Gulf Stream has provided much head scratching on board the British Class 40. “Now, there is a mystery out here that you may be able to help us to solve,” says Salvesen. “We have now passed very close to, over the last 2 or 3 days, about ten or a dozen floating or 'sailing' fish like objects and we just don't know what they are,” he admits. “They are about 5-6 inches in length and are bright purple in colour. They look very odd. Rather like a fish but with a very large - relative to the fish - balloon attached to its back. On the topside of this balloon is a fin-like, or perhaps sail-like, structure. Given their size and the number we have seen I can only imagine there are a lot of these guys out there.” The mystery animal continues to spark much debate between Salvesen and Thomson. “So, a fish that floats along on the Trade Winds and currents?” ponders Salvesen. “An egg-sac for some kind of fish or shark perhaps? Or, they look so plastic and brightly coloured, perhaps they are just some kind of toy from a container washed over the side of some ship?” So far there are no conclusive answers for the British duo.

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