22:30 GMT, Tuesday 29 January 2013
Mike Golding onboard Gamesa has been working for the past 24 hours to resolve an issue with his keel. Investigations over the side of the boat with a camera yesterday evening revealed that the front fairing of the keel olive has been lost. With only ten days remaining for this, Golding’s fourth Vendée Globe, solo, round the world race, a solution needs to be sought immediately to ensure Golding can reach the finish line in Les Sables d’Olonne, France.
Gamesa Boat Captain Graham Tourell explains, “Mike discovered this late yesterday whilst trying to use the bilge pump which empties into the keel box. The pump didn’t work and this then led Mike to the keel box which he found was full of water, over the level of the keel head and the rams.
“There is a lot of turbulence at the front of the keel and without the fairing, water is being driven up into the keel box, faster than the water can drain out by the Venturi system.
“Last night Mike used a horseshoe life ring which he cut up and wedged in the front of the keel to stem the flow, which initially worked, but then was popped out by the turbulence. At this point Mike had to rig up the boat hook to brace it in place, which worked for a period of time, but ultimately that came free as well.
“Even at this late stage of the race, this is possibly a race-ending situation; several of the boat’s vital systems are in close proximity to, or directly plumbed into the keel box, which normally has a negative pressure inside it. If the water level and pressure is not reduced, the rubber gaiters which seal the hydraulic ram could burst and the boat could flood, shorting various electrics, or causing other system failures including potentially irretrievable engine damage.
With the finish line almost in sight, Mike is doing everything he can to find a solution which will ensure he can complete his race. After 5 hours upside down in the keel box, Mike hopes that he has found an adequate solution.
An exhausted Golding commented, “I took advantage of a hole in the wind [light air], to heave-to and get the keel box lid off and pass a section of anchor warp [rope] out of one side of the keel plate and into the other. This actually reduces the cross sectional area of the aperture and thereby, I hope, reduces the pressure inside the keel box and the water level.
“Having studied the images I took underwater, I was surprised to see that the front fairing plate was missing especially as it was extremely well fitted and protected and so can only assume that this has happened either due to the boat’s continual slamming or is the result of a UFO impact in the past 48 hours.”
While the loss of the fairing will ultimately slow the boat slightly, Golding is hoping that his solution will hold, protecting vital boat systems, and allow him one final opportunity to continue his battle with Jean Le Cam [SynerCiel] for fifth position.