Orange may dismast
The darned ball
Orange's Jules Verne Trophy record is by no means in the bag. Last night in a message back to land skipper Bruno Peyron revealed that the ball upon which Orange's wingmast sits has cracked laterally.
Orange's mast towers 41.5m above the water and is a wing section made out of high modulus carbon fibre. To maintain the most aerodynamically effect profile to the wind the wing rotates and to do this it has a cup in its foot which fits over a ball attached to the main crossbeam. This is obviously a very major load carrying part of the rig and as a result the ball is made from titanium. More seriously for the crew of Orange is that if this ball breaks then there is a strong possibility that they will dismast.
"The titanium ball that supports the mast is cracked around 170deg," explained Peyron. "What does this mean? It means that if it breaks the mast will come down. Solutions? Not many - i) stop and head for the nearest port ii) continue and pray and iii) try to reinforce the ball by laminating carbon round it in the hope that it will hold...
"Because of the good state of the sea and the fact that we're sailing downwind, we've decided to continue. After consulting with the naval architects from the Multiplast yard we have decided to bond a carbon reinforcement around the ball, but tomorrow? No comment."
Peyron believes that the ball make have broken several days ago and was discovered during routing maintenance when they attempted to lubricate the mast foot bearing. What concerns the crew is that once through the Doldrums then Orange is likely to be subject to strong headwinds and rougher seas, just the conditions the crew don't want if they are to keep the foot of the mast from falling out from underneath itself.
"We have the Sword of Damocles abouve our heads that won't leave us until we reach the finishing line - if we finished," admitted Peyron. "So we have taken the decision to sail as planned, chosing the weather options that will allow us to sail as little aspossible unto headwinds, therefore sparring the boat as much as possible."
With the ball half broken the crew will be doing their utmost to reduce the loads on the ball, however this will hamper their performance and it will be interesting to see whether Peyron dictates that they physically lash the mast to stop it from rotating. This would have a profound effect on the efficiency of the rig.
The socket in the bottom of the mast is lined up with the ball socket. The curved area at the foot, seen here, is the aperture where a crew can climb up inside the mast. It was also in here where the French crew of Club Med hid a large cooked ham from weight conscious skipper Grant "I do have a sense of humour" Dalton during The Race.