• 03-NOV-2014


DRAMA, DANGER AND DAMAGE including smashed steering wheel, as Dongfeng recovers well from broken control line system

Onboard Dongfeng just after 1800 UTC, part of the sheeting system (control lines) for the masthead gennaker (big sail at the front) broke and the high loads held in that line were released across the leeward deck causing significant damage. There were no injuries to the crew at all despite the major damage to deck equipment, and the determined men of Dongfeng set about immediately to rig a backup solution and get back to full speed. [The whole thing was captured on video]

The team lost about 5 miles during the half an hour or so it took to get things under control, assess the damage and get going again at full speed, during which time their speed dropped to around 12 knots rather than the 22 knots the fleet had been powering along at (an average speed, so peak speeds much higher). The rest of the night whilst wet, cold and fast, passed well for our guys, and they have maintained second place this morning just 8 miles from Abu Dhabi at 0600 GMT this morning having retaken a few of the miles lost. The leading trio are steaming along at an average of over 25 knots - hammer down in 25 to 30 knots of cold Southern Ocean wind (it tends to be denser than the normal stuff too!) with just over 800 miles still to run. The strong wind is not expected to hold to the finish but for now the boats are charging towards the dream of hot showers, warm beds and stable ground under their feet!

The damage to the boat includes the broken wheel on the starboard (right) side - this will be a handicap for Dongfeng when on the other gybe as they would use this broken wheel - difficult to use the other wheel as you can't see the right part of the sails when you steer - a reason for there being two wheels one on each side; the pushpit has gone completely (the protective safety bars at back of the boat), aft stanchions (the safety posts on the side of the boat at the back) above the deck level so no damage to deck itself, and one of two satcom C antennae - the boat is loaded with communication kit so this one is a manageable loss; and the lifelines on that side of the boat (strops that the crew clip on to keep them onboard). Yesterday, the team sent a message from the boat saying how happy with the shore team's work they were and that they hoped to bring the boat in to Cape Town in good shape...ah, the shore team work list just got a whole lot longer on was going to be a very fast pace and hard work pitstop in South Africa already.

The moment it happened, and the aftermath, have all been captured by a raw and direct video feed by Yann Riou onboard Dongfeng.

"A padeye broke, not a mistake from us. Very strange, not seen that before. It has caused a lot of problems - no more wheel, no more lifelines, no more aft block. We will deal with it and try to stay focused on the job at the moment, but for sure it doesn't help! [our race]"from a disappointed Charles Caudrelier at the helm of Dongfeng.

"This is one of the strongest points on the boat, its where we sheet all the big sails. Its gone. Straight off. A bit disappointing. Bit scary actually" from Martin Stromberg. Kevin Escoffier and the guys will now need to find another way of connecting the gennaker sheet at the back of the boat to maintain the best angle for this vital control line when using the masthead gennaker and A3 - the two biggest sails on the boat, that will certainly be needed between now and the finish.

Our navigator the Warhorse Pascal Bidegorry joked "I can't leave the guys on deck for more than 5 minutes [before there is a problem!]. Now we have a flush [deck]! Wow...wow..."! Emotion from the Warhorse, as the determined men of Dongfeng continue their battle towards Cape Town!


  • Marie Laurens
    Volvo Ocean Race News Distribution Manager