Having led the Volvo Ocean Race fleet for three days, Tyco, skippered by Kevin Shoebridge, is currently returning to South Africa after the failure of their steering system yesterday.
Tyco's problems started at midday yesterday when the crew heard what Shoebridge described as "a loud bang from the back of the boat". An immediate inspection by the crew revealed cracks in the carbon fibre taping on the rudder stock between the two bearings in the steering system.
The crew contacted their syndicate, the Volvo Ocean Race headquarters in England, the yacht's designers and the builder to assess the situation. They put clamps around the rudder stock to try and prevent more damage occurring while sailing the boat in a conservative manner to reduce the loads on the rudder.
After a second loud bang at approximately 21.00hrs GMT, it become immediately obvious the shaft was close to shearing off between the two bearings. The Bermudan flagged yacht was around 550 miles south southeast of the coast of South Africa in 25 knots of southwesterly breeze at the time.
The crew took down the sails and rigged the emergency rudder. They also prepared all the water-tight bulkheads in the aft compartment as an extra precaution.
Tyco's shore manager Ian Stewart confirmed this morning that the yacht is heading for Port Elizabeth on the southeast corner of South Africa.
The syndicate are considering various options, including transporting the Volvo Ocean 60 by cargo vessel to Sydney to ensure the team make the start of leg three on December 26th. "We have all the options open at the moment and that includes a ship," explained Stewart. He expects Tyco to arrive in port sometime after the weekend.
Despite the troubles, Shoebridge reported that morale amongst the crew remained high: "They [the crew] are taking to the job in hand. It's obviously shattering news for us. Things were going really well but we have to worry more about the safety of the guys and the safety of the boat."
Volvo Ocean 60 yachts are required by race rules to carry an emergency rudder system. In addition, the watertight bulkheads will ensure the safety of the yacht should water penetrate the hull.
In the 1993-1994 Whitbread race, the crew of Brooksfield successfully sailed 1000 miles through the Southern Ocean to Fremantle, using a similar emergency rudder after a rudder bearing failed causing the rudder to break away from the hull.
Three of the Tyco crew, British sailors Tim Powell, Gerry Mitchell and Steve Hayles, will be getting a distinct feeling of déjà vu as eight years ago, rudder problems on their Whitbread yacht Dolphin and Youth caused them to put into the remote Kerguelen Islands to effect a repair.
The fleet were alerted to Tyco's plight, with several sending sincere messages of sympathy.
Team News Corp navigator Ross Field, who sailed with Shoeb on the all-conquering Steinlager 2 in the 1998-1990 Whitbread Race, said: "We feel very sorry for them. I sent Shoeb an email this morning and sent our sympathy to them and hope all is well on board. I have offered all the assistance we can possible give. We have shore crew still in Cape Town if they can give any assistance to them," reflected Field.
At the same time Field, like Shoebridge, is a veteran of round the world racing and understands it is an unfortunate part of the game. "I know they will be very disappointed as they were sailing the boat very well but that is part of the southern ocean and you have to keep your boat together. You can't afford to crash and burn these days as you lose too many miles, " added Field.
Taking heed of the warning from Tyco's rudder misfortune, Field concluded: "We've just been back and had a look at ours."
Meanwhile, ASSA ABLOY continues to lead a speeding Volvo Ocean Race fleet east towards Australia this afternoon, 18 miles ahead of Team SEB. Neal McDonald's team have set a new 24-hour record run for the leg of 390 miles (up to 16.00hrs GMT today). Fifth placed illbruck came within two miles of the same distance.
An email in the last few minutes from Amer Sports One skipper Grant Dalton describes the wild conditions the fleet are experiencing as they speed downwind at an average of 17 knots. "Brother is it wet, it would be impossible for the boat to be any wetter. This is not your average heavy spray, more walls of white water which eventually penetrate through everything."
Volvo Ocean Race Position Report, Day 5, 16.00hrs GMT:
PS Yacht Latitude Longitude DTF CMG SMG TFHR DTL ROC ETA PO
1 AART 45 13.44S 036 34.48E 5429 094 16.9 390 0 00.0 04 DEC 01 12
2 TSEB 44 40.92S 036 25.44E 5447 099 16.8 384 18 00.3 04 DEC 01 10
3 DJCE 45 36.56S 035 48.44E 5450 094 16.6 382 21 -00.2 04 DEC 01 8
4 AONE 45 38.56S 035 45.28E 5452 101 16.2 376 23 -00.3 04 DEC 01 12
5 ILBK 44 52.80S 035 41.08E 5472 102 16.7 388 43 00.3 04 DEC 01 12
6 NEWS 46 37.16S 034 18.92E 5485 115 16.2 377 56 00.3 04 DEC 01 9
7 ATOO 45 45.36S 034 21.44E 5503 120 15.0 351 74 -01.0 04 DEC 01 3
8 TYCO 42 03.28S 028 30.20E 5826 341 07.4 216 397 -21.5 05 DEC 01 6
PS - Position; DTF - Distance to Finish; CMG - Course made good; SMG - Speed made good; TFHR - 24 hours run; DTL - Distance to leader; ROC - Rate of Closure; ETA - Estimated time of arrival; PO - Points Overall
ILBK illbruck Challenge
AONE Amer Sports One
ATOO Amer Sports Two
AART ASSA ABLOY Racing Team
NEWS News Corporation
TYCO Team Tyco
TSEB Team SEB
DJCE djuice dragons