The solo sailing blog: A couple of setbacks
On 9 December at 2220 GMT I hit something in the water while travelling at 22 knots. I was at the navigation table at the time, and heard a loud bang forward of where I was, which I think must have been something hitting either the keel or the daggerboard. I heard a series of softer bangs as whatever I hit bumped along under the hull and a final big bang as it hit the rudder and hydro generator.
By the time I got to the companionway hatch the rudder was in the air and the hydro generator was dragging in the water. On inspection the starboard rudder fuse had broken and the rudder had lifted with minor damage. The hydro generator blade was damaged and one of brackets was in pieces and eventually lost overboard. The rudder tie bar (the previously unbroken one) was also smashed in three pieces. Overall there was substantial damage to the HUGO BOSS.
I set to work swapping tie bars to get the leeward rudder operational so I could steer safely in the right direction. The waves were very big and were coming up and over the transom and mainsheet traveller and were hitting the rudder blade while lifted. Both rudder cassettes sustained some damage while doing this and it was pretty dangerous hanging off the transom while being completely submerged by the waves.
I had to slow right down to fix the rudder, but eventually I got it working and connected and started sailing again with the port rudder in the air. I contacted the team and started affecting a repair to the tie bar. I have been unable to sail at 100 per cent while managing this repair. The repair has been done in a similar way to the previous tie bar but it has been more difficult and time-consuming as the breaks were not clean and the conditions to affect a repair less forgiving. I will not be able to repair the cassette damage until it is dry on deck but the team feel that these repairs are not critical right now.
I expect to have both rudders working now.
I lifted the starboard daggerboard as far as possible and can see no damage. The keel fin on this boat is made from solid steel so any damage there should be cosmetic. It is impossible to inspect the outside of the hull between the daggerboard and the rudder but the inner skin looks fine.
I am gutted to have lost so many miles but fortunate that the known damage is repairable and that I’m able to continue on my way. Longer term I am now down to only one hydro generator which means in the current conditions I will have to shut everything down into power saving mode and work hard to save power to be able to make the finish. This literally means everything off, computer, phone, GPS, etc meaning a reduction in communication with my team and my family, otherwise I have no chance of making the finish.
A couple of nights ago at 2030 GMT I was asleep when the pilot alarm went off. The boat was completely flat and I rushed on deck as the boat tacked. I rolled the J2 immediately and then found the working rudder had lifted and was in the air. I checked the blade for damage and all looks okay this time, so I replaced the fuse and set it back down again, tacked the boat back again and got back on my way. More miles lost, but again, not terminal. I have had the working rudder kick up three times all year so it seems a little harsh to hit something twice in almost one day but I am thankful that the fuse is doing its job and the rudder is staying in one piece.
It’s annoying that I had to slow right down over the past 36 hours in order to make the necessary repairs to HUGO BOSS, especially after I had such a successful weekend jostling with the lead boats, and pushing up to third as I matched their speeds. I really hope I don’t get dropped off the back of this lead group with these setbacks.Tagged in: Alex Thomson, hugo boss, Sables d’Olonne, sailing, Vendée Globe
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