Thursday, December 18, 2008

Delta Lloyd breaks hyrdraulic ram

[Source: Volvo Ocean Race] At 7:30 this evening, we were sailing upwind in 20 knots of wind - pounding away in a short steep sea state with our J1 headsail and a reef in the main. All of a sudden, there was a massive breaking sound from inside the boat.

One of the hydraulic rams, that cants the keel from side to side, had ripped off the bulkhead that connects it to the boat. Immediately we put our safety plan into place.

Unsure of extent of the structural damage and integrity of the boat, everyone moved to their areas. We took down our headsail. The water pumps were deployed and put on standby. Survival suits and grab bags were pulled from the safety locker in case we were sinking and needed to abandon the boat. I called the race office to tell them our position and to be on standby in case we needed assistance from another boat. I also worked on finding ports that we could take refuge. The closest ones were 400 miles away. Meanwhile the guys on deck limped the boat along at three knots.

Broken hydraulic ram on Delta Lloyd. Indian Ocean, 18 December 2008. Photo copyright Sander Pluijm / Team Delta Lloyd / Volvo Ocean Race

The next phone calls were to the designer, Juan Kouyoumdjian to help us assess the implications of the structural failure. He helped us determine that we could continue to sail, with our keel locked in the centre position by using the starboard hydraulic ram.

Right now, we are sailing with our little J4 headsail and a reef in the main towards the northern tip of Indonesia, which also happens to be the location of the scoring gate. Using the sails to heel the boat helps to reduce the slamming loads on the hull. We are making decent headway at about nine knots of boat speed. Over the next two days, we will work with our shore team to figure out how we are going to get to Singapore.

It was a very scary moment onboard, but it was great to see the entire team handle the emergency in a calm and professional way. We are fortunate to be able to continue east towards Singapore. However, every wave that we crash into is a bit more worrisome than normal. Hopefully, we can get the boat safely to the Malacca Straights in one piece. For now, we are happy to be safe, which is always our first priority.

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