Rudder damage causes fourth placed Renault Captur to turn back to New Zealand

Following damage to their starboard rudder which became obvious between Sunday 15th and Monday 16th February Jorg Riechers (GER) and Sébastien Audigane on Renault Captur have made the decision to reroute to New Zealand to undertake a technical pit stop to try and make a more effective repair.

The duo, racing in fourth place in the Barcelona World Race, were 585 miles SE of the southerly tip of South Island NZ at 0500hrs UTC this Wedensday morning. They have yet to specify where they will head to but Invercargill was 650 miles NW of their position when they notified Race Direction of their intentions, and Wellington 750 sailing miles.

Riechers and Audigane believe it will take them about three days to reach a suitable landfall, sailing in mainly favourable SW and S'ly breezes which look set to become lighter as they close to New Zealand.

The German-French duo had attempted two repairs to the rudder blade so far but the boat has proven uncontrollable at higher speeds. Rather than risk damage to the other rudder and the possibilty of arriving at Cape Horn with very compromised steering, the pair have made the prudent decision to make their own safety and that of their IMOCA 60 as top priority.

“We are not abandoning the race. We are looking to find a solution,” cautioned Audigane this morning in an explanatory e-mail from the boat. The pair were engaged in a match for second and third places, less than 200 miles behind third placed GAES Centros Auditivos.

Audigane noted: “Unfortunately downwind Renault Captur can not longer be controlled in the waves. The helm is extremely heavy and the boat veers left and right, broaching or luffing up. We have to reduce sail and drop our speeds, the boat not so flat and we are having to work hard at the helm.

“In addition to the rudder problem, we also have a recurring problem with our keel and yesterday, in addition to the lack of stability of the boat, we had to work for 3 hours to set up the keel after the gybe, with the invaluable help of Bruno [Behuret, Renault Captur technical team) on the phone (he did not get much sleep that last night).

“After discussion with the technical team, we had to face the facts, for the safety of the boat and us, we have decided to head for New Zealand where will reach in about three days. During this time we are investigating solutions to rebuild the starboard rudder.  We do not abandon the race we will try to fix it.

“It is clear that this decision is difficult to make, but it is a question of our safety and that of the boat. With my past experiences in these seas and on different boats, it would be unwise  to continue with a boat without reliable steering.

“We know that in the Pacific Ocean rescue is very difficult or non-existent; We do not want to find ourselves stuck in trouble at Cape Horn, on port with a faulty rudder in a big seas. We also dont want to risk breaking the other rudder because it undergoes similar loads in these conditions.

“We both have family, a team, a sponsor and a racing organization who support us in our adventure but we do not take take unnecessary risks. We are going to protect ourselves and in the meantime think about how to fix this.” 

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