Estrella Damm retires from Barcelona World Race

Barcelona World Race - Estrella Damm

Estrella Damm skippers Guillermo Altadill and Jonathan McKee have made the difficult decision to retire from the Barcelona World Race. Although it has been possible to repair the rudder system, it has become evident to the team that it will not be possible to test the rudder system fully and get Estrella Damm back in the race to stay in contention with the remainder of the fleet within a reasonable timeframe. In addition, the serious consideration of safety for the skippers and the boat rejoining the race at its most perilous stage has to be taken into account.

Estrella Damm skipper, Guillermo Altadill said: 'Naturally we are very disappointed not to be able to carry on racing and it has been a hard decision to make but it is the right decision. The objective at the start of the Barcelona World Race was to be on the podium at the finish and this is now impossible. With 2,500 miles between ourselves and the leaders we would not be re-entering the race but effectively playing catch-up in a very dangerous part of the world. Even the weather forecast for the next few days out of Cape Town is bad with 30+ knots of southeasterly wind and big seas which are boat breaking conditions.

Estrella Damm skippers Guillermo Altadill and Jonathan McKee on their way to the start of the Barcelona World Race © Carlos Pich
This is what happened to Ericsson and Brasil 1 who dismasted during the last Volvo Ocean Race on the leg from Cape Town, so you do not take these decisions lightly, there are lives at stake and the integrity of the boat. However, we are proud of our achievements so far, competing at this very high level of the sport is always demanding and we thank our sponsor Estrella Damm for supporting us in our endeavours. It has been a pleasure to race against the other teams and to race with Jonathan who has been a fantastic co-skipper, and I sympathise with him as he was looking forward to his first real taste of the Southern Ocean.'

Co-skipper Jonathan Mckee put his feeling into words: 'I was still hoping to have the chance to complete my dream of sailing around the world non-stop, that was my objective, but this is now not to be and obviously I'm very disappointed. A lot has been achieved already, I have experienced much of what the sea and this race has to offer, only for a shorter time than I originally planned. For me it has been a fantastic experience, both the preparation and the sailing itself. In some ways our performance has been disappointing.

I know we made a lot of wrong decisions, of which I contributed to many. But we also learned a lot, and started to sail better towards the end. And I learned a lot about onboard mechanical systems! Seriously, I have proved to myself that I can overcome obstacles and continue to fight hard, come what may. This is important, and will serve me well in the future.'

Estrella Damm racing through the Mediterranean
© Jordi Andreu, Estrella Damm Sailing Team
On 9 December, 620 miles south-west of Cape Town, the duo contacted the shore team to report serious damage to their port rudder. They had experienced damage to their starboard rudder only 24 hours earlier, after colliding with an object in the water, which they had managed to fix; however, in this separate incident, Altadill and McKee were unable to repair the port rudder on board the boat and made the decision to divert to Cape Town to effect repairs with the assistance of their shore team.

After fashioning a temporary repair to the rudder system, Guillermo Altadill and Jonathan McKee arrived in Cape Town at 21:30 GMT on 12 December and were met by their shore team who immediately assessed the damage, removed the rudders and began to make repairs.

Charles Darbyshire, Estrella Damm Shore Team manager explained:

'The rudders aboard Estrella Damm are designed to kick up if they collided with an object in the water, and although they did this as intended, during the time they spent partially up before the problem was noticed, they experienced side loads for which they were not designed. The resulting damage has now been fixed in Cape Town and with the kick-up feature being removed. Nonetheless, we understand the decisions that have been taken especially given Guillermo's depth of experience in this part of the world.'

Team sponsor Estrella Damm are equally as disappointed: 'We have been proud to be a sponsor of this sailing team, Guillermo and Jonathan have shown true courage and determination in their efforts to complete this race but it is not to be this time round. As a sponsor of the race itself we take some consolation in being part of this incredible race through to the end and, I think, will keep the spirit of Guillermo and Jonathan with us until the end,' commented Federic Segarra, Director of Communications, Damm.