killer keels

As JP Dick figures out what to do with no keel and a long upwind route to the finish, everyone is thinking about the last Vendee, when Marc Guillemot sailed around 1000 miles to the finish in the same condition; Dick spoke to him by phone today, and we suspect he got a similar story to what Guillemot told us at the start, it wasn’t an experience anyone wants to live again.  Meanwhile, Dick’s got a hell of a lot further to go then even Guillemot had.

Even though he’ll likely take over 3rd place sometime tomorrow, Dick’s nearest competitor – Alex Thomson – is seriously pissed.  It’s the second keel failure of the race, and attrition has now claimed 9 of the 20 boats; that’s 45%, around the spot that most of IMOCA’s members told us was ‘unsustainable.’  Here’s more from Alex – a man that knows about keel strength.

“I am shocked and gutted at the news that JP Dick has lost his keel.  JP has sailed an awesome race and does not deserve this to happen to him. He has worked so hard and maintained his 3rd position despite having to climb the mast countless times. I am thankful that it has happened here and not in the south although JP will have to go through some significant weather to get to the Azores, potentially up to 40 knots on the 26th.  

I never thought we would see a keel failure on this race.  IMOCA has of course a history with keel failures but I really thought all those problems were behind us.  It will be interesting to review the failures of Virbac and Safran, both penned from the same designer, to see exactly why these failures have happened.

When I joined the class in 2003 I was a little surprised that I had to change the keel on my first boat because it had exceeded its mileage of 80,000 miles.  Since then people have been building keels that last only one round-the-world race to save a few kilos of weight.  I came from the world that a keel lasted for the life of the boat and that is where we need to get to.  In 2009 IMOCA brought in some regulations to make keels safer but it obviously has not been enough. 

 Enough is enough, the keels need to be made of solid steel and last the life of the boat, before someone gets hurt.”