Rudder damage on W-Hotels

35-40 knot conditions for Spanish Open 60s on their New York to Barcelona record attempt

Thursday April 15th 2010, Author: Maria Bertrand, Location: Spain

Estrella Damm and W-Hotels begin their second week of the New York to Barcelona Transoceanic Record Sailing Challenge battling with the toughest conditions of the passage so far. At present the two IMOCA 60s are being buffeted by 35-40 knot gusts with the forecast indicating that there will only be a reprieve come Friday early afternoon and by but then strategic decisions will have had to have been be taken which will have lasting effects on the boats' positions entering the Mediterranean.

Leader Estrella Damm remains ahead by just over 30 miles, and they still have no options but to press on flat out. Both teams well know that the miles up the Mediterranean are likely to be in light to moderate, with variable headwinds and that in those conditions, the tables could be turned as W Hotels is acknowledged by most as having the potential speed edge.

As Estrella Damm’s experience Project Manager Jan Santana (ESP) noted that from Gibraltar to the Barcelona finish line even a small speed deficit can quickly consume a 30 mile lead. Add to that the fact that some compression is inevitable and all predictions are for this remaining a close challenge.

On board both boats spirits are high, in spite of the challenging conditions. Estrella Damm’s Alex Pella remarked that the thought of being so close to what will feel like the homeward stretch feels especially good: “We are going very well, with 20-30-32 knots of wind and so the work is still hard, we are happy, but it is reefs in and out because the wind is up and down and quite shifty. We are very concentrated and looking forward to when to gybe. The mood is up and we have no large jobs for the shore team when we get back, just small things and we have generally dealt with them as they happen.”

Pella, Ribes and Schreyer are not having any significant problems except for routine small things that are an occupational hazard in the robust conditions, which they have been dealing with. On W Hotels the situation is similar although they had their hands slightly full when the videoconference was taking place this afternoon, as they were undertaking a repair to the compression bar and the part of the blade control mechanism of the windward rudder after it was damaged by a wave.

The W Hotels trio has had to throttle back to make the repairs, but the three co-skippers were confident in their ability to make good a relatively routine, but nonetheless annoying repair. The repair time was estimated to be around three or four hours which should allow W Hotels to return to optimum speed in five or six hours.

Pachi Rivero explained: "Approximately 1 hour ago we got a damage in the windward rudder of the boat. I was on deck and a wave shook the boat completely and covered it in water. Once out of the wave I noticed a noise at the stern and it was the rudder hanging. Anyway after evaluating the damage (we have dismounted the rudder) we are already fixing it. We are still in the Record."

Boat speeds through last night and today have been impressive, averaging just under 20 knots and swallowing miles to the south of the Azores, rapidly approaching the improving conditions.

And then, probably on Saturday morning, comes the decision when to gybe, probably between 0800hrs and midday. Certainly for the Spanish crews that will feel like the turn for home.

Standings at 1300hrs GMT Thursday.

1. Estrella Damm (ESP), Ribes, Pella, Schreyer: 1272 miles to finish
2. W Hotels (ESP), Rivero, Piris, Becker: 1303.2 miles to finish (+ 31.2miles)

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