Repairs and a ballet of Brazilian gybes
Like the top two in the Transat Jacques Vabre, the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild has been weaving her way downwind along the edge of the traffic exclusion zone off northern Brazil. This game of gybes, which has already required a great deal of manoeuvring and concentration from the duos, has been spiced up by a rather tough DIY session aboard the five-arrow giant. However, the news from the open ocean is positive this Saturday! The skipper spent a large part of last night at the back of the central hull repairing yesterday morning’s damage to the steering system. There has been considerable loss of ground in the ranking on both the Maxi Banque Populaire XI and SVR-Lazartigue, but thanks to all their efforts and constantly taking it in turns at the helm, Charles Caudrelier and Erwan Israël have managed to maintain an acceptable lead ahead of their rivals. Some 1,500 miles from the finish, there is still a long way to go, especially with the curveball presented by a second passage of the doldrums over the coming hours. This is not a scenario the top two maxi-multihulls will have to deal with however, so they will likely extend their lead still further before Fort-de-France.
Steering system operational again     

Since the start of the Transat Jacques Vabre, the crew of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild has had to contend with a certain number of technical issues. Yesterday morning though, they suffered serious damage to the steering system, forcing them to take it in turns helming the giant using just the central rudder. Indeed, the steering arm, which connects the central rudder to the float rudders, broke during an impact. Back on land, the team led by Pierre Tissier, technical director, and David Boileau, the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild’s boat captain, immediately sprang into action to come up with a repair procedure to send to the sailors. Late last night, the skipper of Gitana 17 found the energy to action the recommendations put forward by the members of Gitana Team, a mammoth task which the shore team hailed as a success on this the anniversary of the armistice: “The proposed repair was studied in depth. It was feasible but rather difficult to pull off at sea and out on the racetrack. Indeed, it was out of the question to bring the boat to a standstill. Charles took the time to rest yesterday in order to put it into action last night. This repair required work to the central hull, astern of the aft beam. We were seriously impressed given that it required a lot of tools and work!”   

The skipper gave us an insight into the work required and the rather special efforts last night off the Brazilian coast: “We haven’t communicated a great deal since yesterday because, as you know, we’ve had some steerage issues and we’ve been forced to helm the whole time, as we only had the central rudder to sail with. We got a bit exhausted working all night and at one point the autopilot kind of took over again for a bit without causing us to lose too much speed. The news this morning is rather good. On the advice of the shore team, I spent the end of last night doing a spot of DIY with a view to attempting repairs to the steering system and it’s working! It’s been successful for now so we’re pretty happy with that. I’ve never used so many tools on the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild.”   

A second doldrums   

This breakage has caused the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild to lose a lot of ground in relation to the head of the fleet. At the 15:00 UTC ranking, she had a deficit of over 500 miles behind the Maxi Banque Populaire XI compared with 263 miles at the same time yesterday. However, the damage is not the only reason for that because, at the front of the fleet, the crews also benefited from better weather, as the onshore weather cell explained: “The doldrums is swelling up again. Up ahead, they have more breeze and will always have more breeze than us, and above all they’ll benefit from breeze further to the left so they’ll be able to sail a virtually direct course towards the finish. For our part, the wind will come more from the right, which means that we’ll have to continue gybing so we’ll essentially have to sail further to reach Fort-de-France.”  In short, the further in front you are, the fewer miles you have to sail. This also goes some way to explaining why the distance between Banque Populaire and SVR-Lazartigue has tripled over the past 24 hours. As a result, there should be significant deficits opening up between the leader and the rest of the fleet at the finish.     

Though the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild is still not operating at her true potential, she now has more weapons at her disposal to try to defend her podium place as Charles Caudrelier concluded this morning: “We’re not firing on all cylinders, but we can now sail under autopilot, get some rest and tone down our fear of capsizing a little… Indeed, sailing the boat with a single rudder in the pitch black is not easy. The steering system has been playing up since the start, preventing us from getting the best out of the boat. It’s quite frustrating, but it’s important to keep focusing on moving forward. First place looks a long way off this morning with an injured boat, but we’ll try to hang onto our 3rd place. That’s our aim!”            

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