Clipper Race 2013-14: Bottlescrew issue raises questions over One-Design racing

Skippers reported excessive keel movement so all the boats were quickly
diverted to Subic Bay in the Philippines where the the faulty parts were
replaced and strengthened.

The loss of a keel is the most dangerous of all gear failures since a boat can
upturn in seconds with disastrous consequences as Tony Bullimore famously
discovered in the 1996 Vendee Globe, when the Briton has had to be rescued,
so safety has to be at the forefront of all Clipper’s equipment selections,
says Race Director Justin Taylor.

“When one forestay went on Jamaica, we didn’t suspend racing because we
thought it was a one-off then two more went in quick succession and it
became apparent that it could be a fleet-wide problem,” he said.

“Safety underpins everything we do at Clipper so it was an easy decision to
make the decision to suspend racing and take the fleet to Hong Kong to make
repairs.

“We can’t cut costs when we are making our equipment choices. When safety is
involved, we do not care about costs. We will spend whatever we need to put
a problem right.

“Everything on our boats are items you can buy off the shelf because we need
to have boats that we can repair ourselves anywhere without specialist help.

“These forestays are a case in point – the bottlescrews that have gone can be
bought anywhere. They have failed and we will get to the bottom as to why in
due course but we have a solution to correct that which has been signed off
by surveyors and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) so we are
perfectly happy with that.

“If we hadn’t designed the yachts so that all parts were interchangeable then
this would not be possible. By the end of the weekend, we will have 12 boats
re-rigged and sailing again. Who else in the world can turn round 12 racing
boats and get them racing again in such short order.”

“The logistical problems of getting all 12 boats in one place and getting the
right parts and the right personnel out to repair them is probably our
biggest nightmare in all of this but it has all been factored in.”

Race officials at the Volvo Ocean Race are watching closely, keen to
circumvent costly problems if possible. Trials on some of their brand new
identical Volvo 65s have now stretched to 10,000 nms which should minimise
problems on the race track, said Volvo race director Jack Lloyd.

“We fully expect to have issues with bits and pieces on our boats,” he said. “We
are very new into our programme but so is Clipper because these Clipper 70s
are brand new boats. They had a few problems at the start and were short of
testing time and they have sailed in some really atrocious conditions.

“People are paying to have the experience in the Clipper whereas we designed a
different product for professional sailors but I can’t imagine a situation
where we would stop racing and get all the boats in to fix them because in
the Volvo, getting to the end of a leg is half the challenge.

“If we had three forestay problems, we would inspect the whole fleet because
we would want to know if it was down to the way the boat was being sailed or
down to the equipment.”


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