July 11, 2017, 1700
At 0015 Sunday July 9th we struck an unseen submerged object at a speed of 18-20 knots. We believe that it first struck the keel, then ran along the portside, until it struck the port rudder. The ensuing impact completely snapped the rudder just below the upper bearing. The rest of the stock and the rudder were now free to swing about, destroying the lower bearing and threatening to tear a hole in the boat. Since we were on starboard tack, copious amounts of water were pouring into the boat.
The first order of business was to slow the boat down to try and keep the free swinging rudder from doing more damage. The kite and the staysail were dropped and with the reduction in speed we were able to keep up with the ingress of water with our pumps.
With the water somewhat under control, we needed to come up with plan. We knew if we gybed, we could heel the boat enough that the damaged bearing would be well out of the water, but the boat would also pick up speed, which in turn could cause the rudder to rip a hole in the boat that we would have very little chance of patching. It was determined that we needed to get the rudder out of the boat quickly and get the hole covered.
Luckily for us, we have a very experienced crew who have all been with the boat since its christening, plus we have onboard multiple Volvo veterans, Chris Nicholson, Justin Ferris, Bouwe Bekking, Will Oaxley, and our own ace craftsman and Magyver, Jeff Messano onboard who came up with a plan.
Jeff quickly went to work rounding up parts to cover the hole, while the others came up with a way to secure the patch. But first we had to get the rudder out of the boat, which meant keeping the boat as slow as possible, which in turn meant the boat was flat and water would flood the compartment. when all preparations were complete, everyone except for Jeff left the compartment. The plan was to push the broken rudder out of the of the boat, stuff a sleeping bag in the hole to stop the water until we could pick up speed, heel the boat, and make our repairs.
With the boat heeled, Jeff quickly installed a round piece of plexi glass that’s normally used at the deck level to inspect the top of the rudder post on the hole with fast curing epoxy and bolted it down to what remained of the rudder bearing. He then cut a piece of our empty water tank to install on top of the plexi glass and installed a few bolts to secure in place, in the meantime other crew members cut the broken rudder strut to size so it could be rigged to come through the inspection port at the deck and put pressure on the repaired patch as an extra safety measure.
The plan came together perfectly, and with the hole covered, we gybed back to starboard. The next step was to get our emergency rudder installed so that it would be ready to deploy quickly should anything happen to our other rudder.
We found that we could sail the boat in a diminished capacity with our R2 and Main sail on starboard to get us to the port layline, where we could then gybe and sail at normal speeds. We did not want to risk using our emergency rudder on starboard tack, and possibly damage the E rudder, leaving us with no rudders should we later damage the starboard rudder as well(which took a hard strike only an hour before the hit which took out the port rudder).
So we sailed over 700 miles with our starboard rudder, having placed all of our sails and with our idle crew on starboard aft to keep the rudder in the water while we are sailing. After countless controlled wipeouts, we finally reached the point where we can hopefully lay the finish on port,and can now sail the boat in its normal configuration. Keep your fingers crossed that we don’t have to spend too much more time to spend on starboard.
We can attest to the fact that this part of Pacific Ocean is full of floating trash mostly discarded by the fishing industry, we have seen small and large islands of fishing nets complete with their floating plastic balls, we have seen crates of all sizes, tires, oil canisters, plastic chairs and all kinds of human debris, this pollution has to stop one day.
All and all, I am very proud of our crew who all preformed brilliantly in the face of adversity and came together as a team to resolve a dangerous emergency situation.
Rio100 is damaged but not broken.
Please wish us good luck for the remaining 500 miles or so that we have to go.