John Bertrand, skipper of the water-ballasted 86-foot American turbo sled, reported by satellite telephone that all crew on board were safe and well. He said that in addition to the rudder problem, waves smashing onto the deck of the boat had broken stanchions for the lifelines and damaged a spinnaker pole stowed on deck. Zephyrus V is headed for Southampton, England and is expected to arrive on Tuesday.
Zephyrus V had covered 440 miles from 3:30 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) on Friday until 3:30 p.m. GMT when Bertrand made the decision to abort the record attempt and retire from the transatlantic race. The world record for a monohull yacht is 484 miles.
The 24-hour span of a record is counted by the World Sailing Speed Record Council as the best performance measured between satellite fixes recorded at any time during the record attempt. With the wind still increasing, the American boat could have pressed ahead for another ten or twelve hours with a chance of improving her mileage.
“We pushed the boat pretty hard in winds of 30 to 35 knots and a very confused sea state with big waves on top of a big swell,” Bertrand said. “The guys did an incredible job of getting the most out of the boat, but we were concerned that the damaged lower rudder bearing would deteriorate further unless we eased up.
“We hit top speeds of 34 knots, and prolonged surges of 24 to 25 knots but the sea state was not all that conducive to record breaking,” he added. “We’ d go ripping down the face of a big swell and punch through two wave tops before hitting a third and losing speed. The swell would pass under us and our speed would drop to 16 knots before building again.”
Bertrand said that the spinnaker pole was damaged when the yacht was slammed by a boarding wave. Although it was stowed on deck, the carbon fiber pole was smashed against a winch. The lifeline stanchions had also been hammered by waves.
“We had other problems including a broken halyard and a fishing net snagged around the keel,” he added. “We know we can do better but this was not the occasion.”
Ian Moore, navigator of Zephyrus V, explained that the fastenings pinning the lower rudder bearing in place in the rudder housing had sheared off. The rudder was still functioning, but the bearing was moving and working inside the housing and the boat was taking on some water. “This is a very experienced crew and a strong boat but if you deliberately put yourselves in harm’s way in front of a 45-knot storm, you can expect to get bitten a few times,” he said.
“The boat itself is in pretty reasonable shape. We could handle the inflow but it was getting worse and we were a long way from home. It was time to put a lid on the attempt.”
Today at 10:00 a.m. GMT, Zephyrus V was motoring in almost calm conditions 774 nautical miles west of Southampton. Bertrand said that when the wind picked up again they would make for Southampton under reduced sail.
In the record attempt Zephyrus V, had to maintain an average speed faster than 20.16 knots for a 24 hour period in order to beat the mark of 484 nautical miles in 24 hours set in April last year by John Kostecki and the crew of illbruck Challenge on Leg Seven of the Volvo Race from Annapolis, Maryland to La Rochelle, France.
The water-ballasted Zephyrus V has logged three first-to-finish victories, and has broken the long-standing record for the Pineapple Cup race from Fort Lauderdale to Montego Bay, Jamaica, since her launching in May, 2002.
Zephyrus V is owned by Dr. Robert McNeil of San Francisco, California, who campaigns her with his regular crew led by John Bertrand of Annapolis, Maryland. Bertrand is an Olympic silver medalist and America’s Cup tactician. The international crew for the transatlantic race includes regular crew boss Mark Sims, plus Volvo Ocean race sailors including noted helmsman Gordon Maguire and navigator Moore. Larry Leonard, head of Quantum Sails, is another regular crewmember.
Built by McConaghy Boats in Sydney, Australia, Zephyrus V is the successor to McNeil's 75-foot Zephyrus IV, with which he and Bertrand shattered the Cape Town to Rio de Janeiro Race record in 2000 by almost two days. In the same year, they broke the Middle Sea Race record in the Mediterranean. She sails under the colors of the St Francis Yacht Club.