Damage to the rudder and main has hampered Leg 3 for 11th Hour crew

Story and photos by on board media specialist Amory Ross
Posted 3/14/23

We are now lying in fourth place, 450 nautical miles southwest of New Zealand and just 144 nautical miles behind leader Holcim-PRB, wrote media specialist Amory Ross of Newport in his blog on the …

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Damage to the rudder and main has hampered Leg 3 for 11th Hour crew

Posted

We are now lying in fourth place, 450 nautical miles southwest of New Zealand and just 144 nautical miles behind leader Holcim-PRB, wrote media specialist Amory Ross of Newport in his blog on the 11th Hour Racing Team website. 

“The expectation and hope, is that by the end of the week,” he wrote, “The Swiss team will hit a high pressure ridge with lighter winds and there will be compression once again in the fleet allowing both an opportunity to catch up, but also for the crew onboard Mālama to effect repairs to both the mainsail and the rudder.”

The 11th Hour Racing Team is at 51 degrees south, just 25 nautical miles north of the ice exclusion zone, or the “No Go Zone,” put in place by the Ocean Race race control, to keep the boats out of the way of any ice bergs which may be in the path of the boats as they push on during Leg 3, racing from Cape Town, South Africa to Itajaí, Brazil. 

Navigator Simon Fisher, gave more details about how the ice exclusion zone is managed by race control. 

“In the south we have a big ice exclusion zone. That no cross line is formed by them doing scans in the south for potential icebergs, looking at sea temperature and potential drift and based on the advice from a company called CLS, they define our ice limits which we have to respect.” 

“Sometimes it can limit how far south we can go and you get days like today where really for the weather we would go more south if we could, but we are forced to jib down the exclusion zone, down the hard limit.”

Generally the icebergs drift to the east or north east, and when they hit the warmer water they tend to break up or fragment, and that’s where you get lots of berg bits, Fisher said. 

“That presents the biggest risk to us in the fleet,” Fisher said. “In the speeds that we do in our carbon boats, the last thing we want to see or hit, is an iceberg. The technology exists to scan the ice accurately.” 

Back in the day when the guys were spotting icebergs, there wasn’t the technology and it was harder to mitigate the risk. The consequences of sailing through an iceberg at 10-12 knots is significantly less than us flying along with foils out the side of the boat doing 25-30 knots, he said. 

“It means a few more jibs at times. Maybe we stay a little bit further north than the traditional clipper route, but it is all for our safety which is probably a good thing,” he said.

 

Crew waiting for light winds to fix rudder and main

“It feels good to be heading south and not north,” wrote Ross. “Since we discovered the rudder issues the plan has been to push ahead to the scoring gate, cognizant of the value of those points and the proximity to Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand in the event the rudders had gotten worse.” 

After crossing the line we bore away and gave the boat a very thorough inspection from bow to stern and keel to mast, he said. The new starboard rudder is perfect and the crack in the port rudder had not gotten worryingly worse. Everything else onboard passed the stringent safety check and the decision was made to press on to Brazil without stopping.

“That’s not to say we are going to be pushing like we have. We will be without reef 1 for the rest of the leg and the plan, weather and materials providing, is to attempt a patch on both the rudder and the main when the winds have begun to abate in a few days time,” Ross reported.  

“We will fill the crack on the rudder with epoxy in an attempt to prevent further peeling of the outer skin and we will patch the main to the extent to which we can hopefully salvage full hoist. Fortunately, most of the forecast from here to the Horn looks reef-2 friendly, so a well done repair should have plenty of time to settle in the stack,” he wrote.

Morale is really good after the tough stretch. 

“Managing the issues and managing the drive to the scoring line took a lot from everyone. Then to have the mainsail tear after losing ground to Malizia, there was visible and understandable disappointment.” 

“The 11th Hour Racing team is a competitive group and we hold ourselves to high standards. But the boat walkthrough and the decision to carry on galvanized the group. It was unified and unwavering. We and the boat are ready for the trip,” Ross wrote.

The complexion of the leg may be slightly different as conservation and safety are the number one priority. The chance to continue with the rest of the fleet is exciting. You never know what issues other boats may have to deal with and what results-oriented opportunities exist over the horizon, Ross said. “We also get to cross another stretch of Southern Ocean and all its unique beauty and hopefully experience the thrill of Cape Horn, about 5000 miles away, as teammates and as friends,” he wrote. 

In this race at least, no points are worth these experiences and deciding to go was a good reminder that we are all out here for a lot of reasons, but the passion for the sea and our planet, and the thrill of adventure, remain common denominators to us all.

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