These past 24 hours onboard have been about teamwork. Teamwork between those on the boat, and those ashore. For those of you studying the tracker closely, you will have noticed some reduced speeds onboard Mālama yesterday morning, because early morning UTC, after undergoing some routine inspections after the heavier winds, a long crack in the starboard rudder was spotted.

As the crew inspected further, they also found a crack in the port rudder. After some close collaboration with the technical shore team, it was all hands on deck [pun intended mark 2] to swing into action, get the starboard rudder out, and replace it with the spare rudder the team carry onboard, exactly for situations like these. 

By early evening UTC, the team is back up to speed, clocking 18 knots, 250nm north east of the Kerguelen Islands, and closing in on Malizia and Biotherm, 120nm due east. A repair plan has already been put in place and the team are waiting for the next light wind patch to conduct the repair. They are keeping a close eye on the port rudder in case it will need repairing in the future; the rudders are interchangeable and the repaired starboard rudder can be put in its place. But for now … all energy and attention are back on the racing and what lies ahead on the racetrack.

© Amory Ross / 11th Hour Racing / The Ocean Race

Amory picks up the story onboard:

"It was a good night of high speed sailing on Mālama. In 23 to 25 knots of wind and alternating between our freshly repaired J2 and J3, it felt like we were finally back to being able to sail the boat the way we wanted. Our unenviable position to the south aside, we were going well against the competition and it felt great!

As the winds gradually eased into the morning it was time to run through the boat for routine after-rough-weather checks. Charlie fixed a broken hatch latch, I worked on the galley spicket and at some point Jack looked at the windward rudder – the one that’s out of the water – and found a crack. It was decent, from front to back, midway down on the outboard side. Then another nearer the top, much smaller, but also closer to the “root,” where the rudder meets the boat; a point of importance because losing the tip of a rudder is one thing but the whole rudder is another. Juju was quick to suggest checking the port rudder so down went the starboard rudder and up came the port. No long crack midway down, but a bigger one at the top in the same place as the starboard rudder.

It’s been a bit of a whirlwind since then, but here’s the summary. After taking our own onboard observations and conferring with our shore team plus the rudders’ designers in France, it was determined that the starboard rudder was the worse off of the two because of its second, longer crack. We chose to put our spare rudder in it’s place. So the starboard rudder came out, and the spare went in, all quite seamlessly.

Soon we gybe onto port tack and our new spare rudder will become the active rudder, which is good. The wind will build into the mid-20s and we will stay on port tack and the new spare for many, many days. Also good. But the question we are asking ourselves is what if it too starts showing signs of cracking? And, how will the already compromised port rudder fare if it’s also in the down position, standard operating procedure for heavy-air sailing, or when we inevitably end up back on starboard tack?

Nobody really knows the answer to these questions and we won’t for a while. Sailing relatively fast is still a priority for a few reasons: 1) we are still racing, and 2) going fast keeps us away from the next low and the next bout of bad weather behind us. Nursing the rudders could put us in the path of more strong winds and “slowing this boat down” has always been a challenge… We’ll have to find the balance between making progress east on both the course and our competition (who will eventually slow up) and making sure to take good care of our remaining rudders. Where that balance falls we will have to figure out, but it will take some time to play out. Days and weeks, not minutes or hours. The complexion of this leg has changed for sure but we’re back into watches and everyone’s up to the new challenge… I promise you that!"

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Une publication partagée par 11th Hour Racing Team (@11thhourteam)