Telefonica Blue suffers rudder problems
[Source: Volvo Ocena Race] Telefonica Blue is hugging the coast of Spain after being slowed by steering damage on their Volvo Open 70 soon after the start of the 2008-09 race.
Skipper Bouwe Bekking had been jostling for the lead with PUMA and the Ericsson duo as the eight boats left the start line in Alicante Bay in 20-25 knots.
Just 20 miles into the first leg to Cape Town as the fleet drag raced to the Straits of Gibraltar, Bekking reported to race headquarters in Portsmouth that they had broken a tiller arm and were down to one rudder.
Bekking has yet to decide whether they will have to stop for repairs and a decidion is likely as they approach Gibraltar in the next few hours.
In a despatch to race headquarters, Bekking said: "What a day to start in, plenty of breeze, fast sailing with the spinnaker up, and we were neck on neck with Ericsson 4, not bad at all. We had great speed but all of a sudden a sickening crack.
"It turned out that a part of our steering broke, only 20 miles out from the start. Only one rudder was working so we made a beauty wipe-out. We had to take the spinnaker down and have been sailing slow for nearly 6 hours, when in the meantime Pepe (Ribes) and Xabier (Fernandez) were working on the repair.
"At one stage we tried to put up a big spinnaker, but we were totally out of control so quickly changed back to a small jib. Of course an option was to stop, but since the breeze is going to die, this would mean a long and painful sail out of the Med.
"Still not sure if we are going to stop and take the 12-hour penalty, we know it will be expensive, as the boats ahead will always sail in more pressure and will strech away from us.
"We have to shorecrew on standby, and have until Gibraltar to make my mind up. How do we feel, just gutted. The good thing is that we crawled back on some of the other boats, but the Ericsson guys are in fat city."
Some good did emerge from Telefonica Blue's misfortune as their enforced decision to head inland allowed them to gain on the pack as the wind eased during the night. They currently hold fifth place just behind of stablemates Telefonica Black and ahead of PUMA, Team Russia and Delta Lloyd.
At the sharp end, Ericsson 4 and Ericsson 3 are staging their onw private battle for the lead with a 30-mile gap back to Green Dragon in third place.