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5 February 2001, 11:08 am
Major Damage For Kingfisher
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Kingfisher Challenges announced on Friday morning that Ellen MacArthur (Kingfisher) had collided with a submerged object two days ago.
"I was sailing along, the sun was starting to set, and everything was fine, conditions were quite stable, and then all of a sudden there was the most almighty crunching sound and the boat felt like she had hit land. As I glanced behind the boat to see what I had hit I saw part of the rudder and the daggerboard floating away. It was a gut wrenching moment. I imagined I might have ripped the bottom of the boat out, the noise was so loud. So I immediately ran through the boat, checking in all the watertight compartments that there was no water in there. I spent a great deal of time getting the broken daggerboard out and then replacing it with the starboard one", reported MacArthur.

Kingfisher has two daggerboards at mast level, which are essential for upwind sailing. These are fortunately interchangeable. The great difficulty for Ellen was to get the broken one out, as it appeared to have jammed, and then transfer the starboard one across. Throughout this arduous operation Ellen continued to head upwind so as lose as little ground as possible. Trying to manhandle a daggerboard twice her height and 1.5 times her weight, with the hull on a 20° gradient and slamming into each wave, was no mean feat. It has drawn on all her available energy & emotion.

At the end of her ordeal now, Ellen remarked, "I went beyond what I thought were my limits, but after all the work was done at the end of the day, Kingfisher was back sailing at her maximum. I've nearly got her racing to her full potential. The damaged rudder is less effective but I can't do anything much about that. Now, I'm back in the race. This incident has lost me 40 miles and there's still another 2400 to go to the finish."

'Unidentified Floating Objects' are more and more numerous these days. Roland Jourdain (Sill Matines La Potagere) made his own insightful comment on this. "I don't know how true this story is but it's a big debate, whether the container ships just deliberately jet their cargo into the water to retain their balance in bad weather." Ellen's collision was one of those incidents nobody could possible predict, another blow dealt by the sea.

Meanwhile the race continues. Michel Desjoyeaux (PRB) maintains his lead, at 78 miles this morning, and is looking ahead at the next weather system. "Here you have your hands tied, it's simply a question of going upwind. Right now I'm focusing on my tactical position compared to where my friends are on the water. I prefer for the moment to get myself to the right, to protect my right side." Jourdain echoes his sentiments about this type of monotonous navigation: "The boat just crashes into every wave, but the inaction is weighing heavier on my mind. None of us can escape the fact that our boats have sailed more than 20000 miles and we're all paranoid about something breaking. It's an uncomfortable feeling" For him it is the anxiety over his mast track repair and the fact that he frequently has the main sail set at the first reefing level - the point where his repair is - in these 20 knot winds.

Dominique Wavre (Union Bancaire Privee) has been watching Thomas Coville (Sodebo) creep back and even slip ahead by 4 miles in the rankings as he himself tries to remain calm in the light airs he has been plagued with. "I've covered less than 42 miles in the last 24 hours. It's a kind of extension of the Doldrums. I hit a brick wall and stopped, sails flapping. There's nothing here but the swell. I have to be so patient to really keep the boat going if I want to get out of this hole." Next up, the Doldrums. Wavre is finding it hard to think about the finish, let alone make an ETA for the Equator at his current speed.

Catherine Chabaud (Whirlpool) is having her endurance tested as well. She may be recharged to see the pair ahead slowing right down, but is finding the navigation uncomfortable: "I haven't slept much last night. During the squalls, the wind changes direction and intensity, and I need to keep up the manoeuvres and stock some freshwater too." She is making progress with the repairs to her water-maker in the meantime.

Mike Golding (Team Group 4) is holding a slim 3 mile advantage over Josh Hall (EBP/Gartmore) again, and sitting in the East of his fellow Brit. He seems to be finally rid of his own water problems now as in the nightly downpour he stocked up more than enough to get him home. One minor incident overnight, though, was that the bottom two car slides on the luff of the mainsail broke. While he is looking to make his last tack in the Southern Atlantic today, Hall is looking forward to pulling out the North Atlantic charts - home waters at last.

Russian skipper, Fedor Konyoukhov (Modern Univeersity for the Humanities), has arrived in Sydney, Australia, today at 1400hrs local time. In good spirits, he was still sad to now be at the end of his global challenge.

Ranking polled at 0800 UTC 2/02/01

Boat Skipper Speed DTF DTL
1 PRB Michel Desjoyeaux 10.9 2323 0
2 Kingfisher Ellen MacArthur 10.6 2401 78
3 Sill Matines & La Potagere Roland Jourdain 10.7 2712 389

Philippe Jeantot
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