The Vestas Sailrocket team is in Walvis Bay, Namibia attempting to break the World Sailing Speed record.
After a few good, high speed runs disaster has struck! Vestas Sailrocket 2's main beam failed in a non sailing handling error.
Paul Larsen explains:
Zero. Normally the number that precedes all others... but in this game it still seems to come immediately after 'hero'!
We just managed to drag our bird back in with a broken wing... well 'beam' anyway (wings fine).
We went out to speed-spot in 20-25 knots of wind with the more traditional sub-cavitating foil on. We wanted to see how hard we could push it. A few of the general boat settings need to be modified as this foil changes the overall balance as compared to the new ventilating foil.
We managed to launch Vestas Sailrocket 2 just fine but up ahead of me there was a flock of cormorants working a school of something or other. VSR2 began to accelerate but I had to slow down to let the cormorants get out the way. I once sailed through a flock on a windsurfer expecting them to get out the way. It got messy as they are waterlogged and take a while to get going. VSR2 at pace would have been like some sort of GD harvester.
So I waited until I cleared them before accelerating. This didn't leave much room to the beach. VSR2 accelerated but I had to bear away quickly. She didn't quite have the speed to carry the apparent wind around with her and stalled.
We had used up a lot of the course and I was reluctant to do another run that would have me down in the shallows at the end of the course. I stopped just past the timing hut and called the RIB alongside.
I raised the foil and we tried to see if we could slowly slide VSR2 sideways back up the course as we had done before. By changing a control line I had restricted the ability of the wing to fully feather so we stopped the idea and made for the shore. It was here that the RIB yanked the nose the wrong way and the wing loaded from the wrong side. It gave a forward pitching moment which puts huge compression on the strut. The beam folded between the strut and the leeward pod and the wing pitched nose down into the water.
S**, s***, s***. I've been here before only not with this boat.
Now to sort out the order of things before any other damage takes place. Quite often, especially with wings, you can do more damage after the accident than by the original mishandling. I jumped out of the cockpit and grabbed the forestay to stop the wing from flying up. Alex slowly motored into the shore. I swore a bit... but not that much. Sort of one long, loud one rather than an extended volley.
Once we got into the shallows we began picking it all apart. I was happy to see that the damage was quite localised and that virtually no other pieces had been damaged. The wing was miraculously undamaged. The strut, the Harken track and car, the leeward pod brackets were also all without damage. It was only a section of beam which, in the big picture, is relatively easy to repair.
So the new wing will spend its first night in the shed over on speed-spot. Hopefully its last. We managed to get the rest of the platform back safely and have already begun on the repair.
Overall I feel kind of lucky. It could have been much worse. These things happen. It was a handling mistake that we shouldn't, in hindsight, have exposed ourselves to. I didn't think it would play out like that... rather I thought that the boat would have slipped sideways. Well it didn't and here we are. You simply don't get it right all the time. Personally I'm pretty happy to have made it this far with such a radical boat. The carnage we had with the first boat taught me to incorporate some flexibility into the joints for just such a situation and these prevented a lot more damage today.
I reckon it will take us a week or less to be back in action.
So that's it. I can't say I'm happy about it... but I'm not going to overdramatise it either. These incidents are part of the scenery and we always get over it and comeback smarter and faster.
We just mounted a wing-top camera too... Caught it all beautifully... but I'll leave you with the fast run for now.