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Serious damage to the steering system aboard the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild

by Gitana Team 10 Nov 2023 07:46 PST 10 November 2023
Maxi Edmond de Rothschild in Transat Jacques Vabre © Yann Riou / polaRYSE / GITANA SA

After 12 days of racing, the leading ULTIMs are attacking the home straight of their epic 7,500-mile course across the Atlantic and are currently sailing downwind towards the northern hemisphere, immediately adjacent to a large exclusion zone along the north coast of Brazil where navigation is not permitted.

For the men on the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, this final section of the race is set to be even more difficult than suspected since an incident that occurred this morning. In fact, since setting sail from Le Havre, on 29 October, Charles Caudrelier and Erwan Israël have not been spared of technical woes. As such, they have had to very quickly try to get the best out of a boat that was no longer at her full potential and adapt their race accordingly. This morning, an impact caused serious damage to the steering system and the sailors will have to contend with the major breakage all the way to the finish line, which is still some 2,000 miles away.

This morning, shortly before 10:00 UTC, whilst the crew was making headway on port tack at over 30 knots, the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild's suddenly lost speed, slowing to under 8 knots. This sudden stalling was the result of an impact a few seconds earlier. Charles Caudrelier and Erwan Israël quickly noticed that the steering system had been seriously damaged.

Indeed, with the impact, the steering arm broke. This is part of the system that connects the central rudder to the float rudders.

After a thorough inspection and discussions with his shore team, the skipper of Gitana Team had to face facts: such a breakage is hard to repair at sea, even though the team is not giving up and is currently working on a procedure with the crew to effect repairs. It should be noted that this incident comes on top of some previous issues because, in the opening miles of the Coffee Route, the crew encountered some difficulties with the steering system on their flying maxi-trimaran.

Here it's worth recalling the two rather spectacular bear aways at the start off Normandy. With this system undermined, the giant is very tricky to steer on port tack.

If no repair is possible, it is in this new configuration, with only the rudder on the central hull working, that the five-arrow giant will have to make landfall in Martinique.

This damage some 2,000 miles from the finish in Fort-de-France is a tough blow for Charles Caudrelier and Erwan Israël, who have been slugging it out in the top trio since the start in Le Havre on 29 October. For all that, the two sailors are determined to finish this Transat Jacques Vabre. The Maxi Edmond de Rothschild's performance will naturally be affected and this is bound to be reflected in the speed of progression.

However, the duo is adamant: "We will fight for this third place right to the wire with all the weapons we have left at our disposal."

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