We knew that Gaetano Mura would sell his skin dearly (we are talking about a sailor who had dismasted at the Transat Jacques Vabre and still managed to restart without technical stops ashore!). The ocean racer from Cala Gonone, engaged aboard the Class 40 Italia in a record attempt at a non-stop, unassisted circumnavigation of the globe, hit an OFNI (unidentified floating object) on the night of Dec. 9-10, which struck the two rudders, both of which were down at the time. At 22:00 UTC, while sailing at high speed (about 13 knots), in the Indian Ocean southwest of Madagascar.
In constant contact with 1Off, his Cagliari-based team, Gaetano headed north, waiting for light and sea conditions so he could thoroughly inspect the boat and particularly the wheelhouse. Following the instructions of the site technicians, he made initial repairs.
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Here is Gaetano’s first report on yesterday’s day: “Good news. I did a first test on the left rudder. After prudently applying reinforcements, I lowered it into the water again. Already with these initial adjustments, the rudder has decreased movement and noise by 90 percent, and this is in the worst condition, i.e. upwind with low boat speed and wave.
BUT IT DIDN’T END THERE
“Once I get to calmer waters I will have to intervene in the bow of the wheelhouse as well. I’m sure there is no structural injury or failure at the moment.” That said, Gaetano informed the team that he had temporarily strengthened the tiller of the rudder using bracing (i.e., reinforcing ropes) and prepared to test the work performed. At this point, pending further examination of the situation, the choice was to proceed northward, reaching calmer waters to complete the repair work, after which to make heading east from lower latitudes so as not to expose Italy to undue stress. This was to monitor the behavior of the wheelhouse and the soundness of the operation, continuing on in the direction of Australia anyway, and then descending south again to higher latitudes when conditions permit.
HAPPY TO HAVE SOLVED
Alternatively, there was, of course, the possibility of a technical stop ashore, but Italy is over 800 nautical miles (i.e., about 1,500 km) from the nearest coast! Today Gaetano relays decidedly more positive news to 1Off, his team: “I’ve fixed everything and I think I’ve done a good job with the means at hand. The rudders seem firm and are no longer making noise. I was able to replace the mainsail carriage and the batten tip, so that now gybes (i.e., passing the mainsail from one side to the other with the wind at the stern) will involve some extra maneuvering to move all the hoists I added, but that is the life of the sailor. “I’m already happy to have it sorted out. It was never less than 25 knots, but you would have to go too far north to have calmer conditions. I’ve already gybed and with Italia I’m heading east again and I’m happy to be back in the game.”
And, along with Gaetano, Italy breathes a sigh of relief. Bravo Gaetano!