In contrast to our earlier report today of Orange making great progress, skipper Bruno Peyron has just relayed back the message that the ball on which the mast is stepped is cracked laterally, and if that breaks Orange could dismast.
He comments "The titanium ball that supports the mast is cracked at around 170 degrees. It means that if it breaks the mast will come down. Solutions? Not many:
1) Stop and head for the nearest port.
2) Continue and pray
3) Try to reinforce the ball by laminating carbon around it and continue in the hope that it will hold …
Because of the good state of the sea and the fact that we're sailing downwind, we've decided to continue. After consulting with the naval architects from the multiplast yard, we have decided to bond a cardon reinforcement around the ball, but tomorrow? … no comment!"
The damage occurred several days ago. The concern is that after crossing the equator they will encounter head winds and rougher seas, that will cause more stress to the rig in the climb up the North Atlantic.