Barcelona World Race - Mapfre in the fight

Iker Martinez after fixing the daggerboard inside the boat - Barcelona World Race
Barcelona World Race.

Double Olympic medalists Iker Martinez and Xabi Fernandez are world renowned as 49er and Volvo round the world sailors but it is their new found boat-building skills which have helped them hang on to second place in the Barcelona World Race after an epic battle to rebuild as much of a snapped daggerboard as they could.

The Mapfre team revealed this morning that Martinez and Fernandez had hit something and lost 1.5 meters off their port dagger board five days ago which goes some way to explaining their recent drop in speeds.

After cannibalizing foam from the helm’s seat from the cockpit of Mapfre to rebuild some of the broken section back to a useable profile, the Spanish sailing heroes are back up to speed this afternoon, quickest in the fleet and catching miles on the leaders Virbac-Paprec 3.

Resting after their challenge they have also seen the attack of third placed Estrella Damm halted, regaining nine miles on friends and rivals Pepe Ribes and Alex Pella this afternoon. The near identical Farr designed RCN Barcelona based Imoca Open 60 is now 44.2 miles behind this afternoon.

And while Iker and Xabi fight off the attack from Estrella Damm just in time, so too Dee Caffari and Anna Corbella on Gaes Centros Auditivos have held off the advances of Hugo Boss. Andy Meiklejohn and Wouter Verbraak made only one mile on the girls in the five hours to 1400hrs UTC this afternoon but were just seven miles behind. After their technical stop in Cape Town, Central Lechera Asturiana may be ready to move up the leaderboard too. Juan Merediz and Fran Palacio are just seventeen miles behind We Are Water.

Iker Martinez tells the story of the dagger board repair in his mail this morning: 'Here we are trying to pass the Australian barrier in order to only think about New Zealand. Coming behind is a storm that we can hardly avoid and it so strong so we will have to be very careful. We are still fighting with 'Estrella Damm', which is a few miles behind. They are doing really well Alex and Pepe, steadily advancing.

These days we have been unable to go as quick and we have felt how they have gained on us all the time. The fact is that five days ago we hit an object, we had already hit things several times but without incident but this time we broke a dagger board.

We were sailing on starboard, first reaching and then upwind to pass the ice gate and realized we were missing a piece of the dagger board. At that time we could not do anything. It was better to sail without a piece of the dagger board than lift it out, since we had to go through the gate but we immediately started to lose ground to those behind.

From the gate onwards, we managed to start sailing downwind and then managed to remove the dagger board, although neither is ideal for sailing since you are sailing with a hole in the hull but still is probably better than having all the damaged area under water.

At first glance it was just the tip which was broken, a meter or a meter and a half, a cut in the bow side which was more damaged and the structure had endured more, thus having its deepest part now in the wick was completely free. What a mess! What do we do?

You can sort of survive without a dagger board, without losing too much to Cape Horn but after that.... forget it. Or stop in New Zealand or fix it on board. The first option we didn’t even think about it so: let’s fix it! This is easier said than done. First, try and move one of these, about 100 kg and over four meters long, between two people. Sailing is complicated enough but we managed to get it out and lean it on the windward side to work there.

First we tried to rebuild it as much as possible so as we could save as much useable dagger board. We used the foam from the helm seat to rebuild the front and so we can use most of the dagger board to the deepest part of the spar (main carbon box section round which the dagger board is built). The aft side was much better.

Then we had to cover the ‘hole’, because the dagger board is hollow and therefore had to cover over the bottom open part. Hence we had to make the form as hydronamic as possible, although it was impossible to match the original form, which is the ideal one.

All this was quite quick, like a couple of days after the collision, not sleeping too much (since the only times that you can do anything extra every day on the boat is during the sleeping time). The dagger board is already looking better. But the laminating was another story. By then the boat was already full of stuff everywhere: the sand paper, resins, glue, rags ... a disaster area.

Just what you never want to have on a boat and also those who are catching, catching from behind of course, and you're on to something else! We didn’t see ourselves capable of moving the dagger board, so we decided to laminate there. We laminated it as well as we could, but you can imagine ... it was wet; the boat was beating, the wind, and worrying that the cloth is moving, etc.

Finally we finished and decided to cover as much as possible throughout the area we worked to not get wet and see if the next morning was dry. At night, the temperature was about five degrees outside and twenty knots of wind. We started to stick the bow onto waves and the next morning the dagger board was wet, the resin did not dry! What a disaster!

We then decided to try to move the dagger board and to be closer to the entrance of the cabin and try to protect it there, but we were in a hurry because we were sailing on port and in a day and a half we would have to gybe at the Australian barrier, and then wind would be strong again so we would have to get it in before that or it would be impossible afterwards.

We managed to move it, but hitting it a bit, and got the tip inside the boat but it only improved in moisture. Inside the boat at night was 10 degrees celcius. It was not enough, so we made a small oven and with the boat engine we managed that this area improved a bit...We only had left half a day and the resin still didn’t dry outside. We had to remove some layers that had not stick but some were looking better, so we decided to start working the shape with other fillers. Obviously we really needed five cans of filler, we only had one so we were being as careful as possible!

We managed to make more or less good looking and again the night and the filler that doesn’t dry, what despair! Again engine, oven and all sorts of strange ideas, but we were running out of time and also Estrella Damm who was already very close. At the end we could take out the dagger board that was inside the boat, but we had to gybe again because we were at the beginning of the Australian barrier.

We gybed and immediately we had twenty-five knots....... 'It was impossible to replace the dagger board with water on the deck! Too dangerous, it could beat us, so we tried as best as we could but to try to keep sailing, with the dagger board aperture in the water again (the bottom of the dagger board box)).

Here we checked the weather reports and saw that there was a possibility that the wind did not drop almost to New Zealand, which would be about eight days with a strong storm that we would have to pass.

We did not want to imagine having to go through a storm with the board tied up on deck. If it would let go or break its ties by the sheer force of water, we would lose the dagger board and possibly it would damage something more with that big piece hitting everything, so we decided to try dropping it in if there was a moment when the wind dropped to twenty knots.

So we prepared everything, hang the dagger board off a halyard and in a 'quiet' area stopped the boat as much as we could and we get into it.

The operation went very well and we had the dagger board well place, what a satisfaction! We were both dead, exhausted, empty of power and then came a report where we saw that 'Estrella Damm' was a little over ten miles astern, but we managed to repair and place it without being passed over. We were thrilled! We felt like we won set point!

So now we could start thinking about sailing again. First we had to recover. Then rearrange and clean the boat completely chaotic and then we could sail again and try to stabilize the difference with the other boats.

It's been 24 hours since we got it finished and we’ve managed to get some sleep. The boat is now cleaner and we can return to focusing on the race. We are back fighting with Alex and Pepe, very stable in the mix, and although we have a few days to recover, eating well and sleeping, we need to recover before the storm hits hard, in about 48 hours.

The dagger board is not looking as before but it is not bad. For us it is a success have been able to fix it on board and now to speed up, because Alex and Pepe are giving everything to try and pass us as usual.
You’ll soon realize there is never a dull moment on Mapfre. I'm going out since Xabi is driving and we have to change watches so he can go to rest and keep recovering from this beating.'

Standings at 1400hrs UTC Thursday 10th February 2011

1 Vibrac-Paprec 3 at 13350 miles to the finish
2 Mapfre at 481 miles to the leader
3 Estrella Damm Sailing Team at 526 miles
4 Groupe Bel at 731 miles
5 Renaultz.E at 1140 miles
6 Mirabaud at 1592 miles
7 Neutrogena at 1714 miles
8 Gaes Centros Auditivos at 2200 miles
9 Hugo Boss at 2207 miles
10 Forum Aritim Catala at 3306 miles
11 We Are Water at 3499 miles
12 Central Lechera Asturiana at 3516 miles
RTD Foncia