Volvo Ocean Race: Broken rudder masks hull split for Team Sanya

Sanya gets into her work on the way back up the Waitemata - Volvo Ocean Race Auckland - Start March 18,2012

Team Sanya skipper, Mike Sanderson revealed to Sail-World.com today that a significant crack was found in the hull of the Volvo 70 Team Sanya, when she was pulled out of the water to be shipped to Miami.

Mike Sanderson (centre) at the finish of Leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race
Sanya, the Chinese sponsored entry suffered a broken rudder in the Southern Ocean while sailing at 25 knots and leading the other five competitors in the 2011/12 Volvo Ocean Race. She took eight days to sail back to the port of Tauranga where she was loaded on a ship for Miami, USA where she will rejoin the race.

'As it turned out we were very fortunate to have come back to the dock,' Sanderson told Sail-World.com. 'When we hauled the boat we found a 1.5metre crack in the bottom. The crack ran at a 45 degree angle from the propeller box to the rudder we had broken.'

'It was through the outside skin. We were lucky to have got back to New Zealand. Otherwise we were in a world of bother,' reflected Sanderson, in one of the great understatements of sailing.

'When we hit something in the first leg, the split in the hull was contained within the watertight bulkhead area in the bow. The issue we would have had here was that the split would have been in the middle of the boat. The watertight ends can hold the boat afloat, but in all seriousness, I would not like to be testing that ability, where we were, in the Southern Ocean.

'The crack was all the way through the outside skin, so it was only a matter of time before it went right through the hull. It would have deteriorated quite quickly.



'When the rudder broke we were sailing at 25-35kts of boatspeed. When we started limping home, we could only sail at ten knots so we didn't really notice it at all. If we had kept going at full race pace we would have been in a lot of bother, that's for sure.

Groupama showing the area of the crack on Team Sanya running from the propellor at 45 degrees towards the rudder for a length of 1.5 metres

Sanderson says the next stage would have been for the the outer skin to start to peel off, followed by the core. 'Then there would have only been the inside skin between us and the Southern Ocean,' he added. 'Not an ideal situation.'

The crack was only noticed when Sanya was lifted onto the ship for Miami.

At this stage they have not identified the cause. 'For sure, we will be able to fix it in Miami. We will have a team of boatbuilders there and hopefully we can do it in time.' Sanderson adds that they don't have a lot of spare time in Miami, despite missing Leg 6 from Itajai, Brazil. Sanya is expected to arrive in Miami on 26 April and In Port racing starts in mid-May.

Sanderson told Sail-World.com that the damage could have occurred on the opening night of the race, when the six yachts hit big seas leaving Auckland, forcing Abu Dhabi to return for repairs after popping a J4 bulkhead from the hull.

'There were some very nasty waves coming out of Auckland, or maybe it was when we were smoking downwind in the Southern Ocean. I tend to think that we did it during the high speed stuff, as if we had started that with a crack like that, we would have just ripped the bottom out of the boat. So I am inclined to think that it came from the wracking of the boat - and all the twisting and bending down south.'

The underside of Team Sanya showing where the crack started at the propellor exist to the left of the picture. The outer skin was about to peel, to be followed by the core if the boat had continued at race pace.

Sanderson is philosophical about the rudder breaking, as it is now obvious what could have been a much more serious situation.

'Twice now, we have had to pull out when in the lead. We had a good previous day when we had not only positioned ourselves closest to the mark (the Western Ice Gate) but also had very nice leverage on the fleet on starboard gybe. At the time I felt we could cash in and even extend our advantage', he told Sail-World.com

The full interview with Mike Sanderson will be published in a day or two in Sail-World.com covering his thoughts on the future of the race, the structural issues with the boats, cost reduction and more.