Rough day in Palma for INEOS Britannia

9 Feb 2023
With the remnants of yesterday afternoon’s front still lingering over the Bay of Palma, INEOS Britannia were determined to continue their stellar testing season despite winds of some 15 knots inside the harbour and predicted gusts up to 24 knots outside but forecast to subside post around 2pm. Dock-out was at 12.15pm after a short hold for the weather on the dock and it was Giles Scott and Sir Ben Ainslie on the wheels with Iain Jensen and Leigh McMillan initially taking the flight control and trimming in the forward pod positions.

Runs were fast and furious with the team going through their foil and cant test schedule, once again displaying top tier boat-handling skills and experienced high-level foiling and all looked good for another outstanding day on the water. However, after some three very productive hours of data collection at rapier pace around the Bay, the day turned somewhat for the worse just before 4pm as T6 got loose with leeward heel and bow up. The flight controllers corrected everything but just seconds later the team found themselves capsized with an uncharacteristic loss of sail control. The INEOS chase boat was in quickly and a tow line attached, the standard procedure for righting foiling monohulls, but as the boat came upright the team couldn’t hold the bow into the wind and with the sails unable to be released, the boat flipped back over onto the other side and capsized again.

As the boat rolled over, this time the rig continued to go under, and the boat was soon fully inverted or ‘turtled’ in sailing parlance. An inflatable buoy was attached to the bow and a long inflatable tube inserted down the inside of the hull to prevent sinking, whilst an INEOS diver dived down and affixed a further inflatable buoy to the masthead whilst the crew cut away the mainsail and jib for the chase boat to retrieve.

A side tow brought T6 back to the standard capsize position before righting and pumps were installed down below for a double chase boat tow back to base. INEOS Britannia’s shore team and sailors deserve the highest praise for salvaging the boat and with ‘T6’ safely ashore now, the full assessment of the damage can be undertaken.

Speaking about the incident, a determined Ben Ainslie commented: “We salvaged the best I think we could and finally got the boat upright and then to cap it off we had some major issues with the lithium batteries setting alight which was the final bit of carnage for the day…we’ve got the boat back in probably the best shape we could considering it went turtle and we’ll re-group and have a look at what the issues are and what caused it. The only positive was that we were about to go into an upgrade window so if this was going to happen, it’s not a bad time.”

And praising his outstanding team, Ainslie was effusive saying: “The team did a brilliant job. We sort of train for these things but until it actually happens, you’re never quite sure and that’s the first capsize we’ve had full turtle in these boats so plenty of learnings for us and I’m sure for the other teams watching but we’ll take it on the chin and come back from it.”

Better days ahead for INEOS Britannia for sure – and the shore team are already hard at work on the ‘Silver Bullet’ planning for the next two weeks’ shoreside programme.

Full story here

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