Ultims – Le Cléac’h heads into Rio de Janeiro technical stopover after damage to two rudders

Second placed skipper on the ARKEA ULTIM CHALLENGE – Brest Armel Le Cléach is a few miles from Rio de Janeiro, Brasil early this Friday afternoon, set to meet members of his shore team at the start of a technical stopover which is required as he has damaged or lost the main hull rudder and the port rudder of his ULTIM in two separate incidents earlier this week.

The Banque Populaire team report this afternoon, “Armel Le Cléac’h and the Maxi Banque Populaire XI suffered two major rudder damages in 48 hours which have now disrupted the rest of the race as he requires a new technical stopover. On Tuesday February 13 around midday UTC the Maxi Banque Populaire port float had a collision. Maxi Banque Populaire XI was sailing at more than 30 knots on starboard tack when the port rudder hit a log, causing the complete loss of the appendage.” 

The team statement continues, “While there were still nearly 6,000 miles to go to reach Brest, the equivalent of two transatlantic races, Armel Le Cléac’h sailed for a few hours on starboard on the central rudder and confirmed his desire to continue the race without making a stopover, despite the absence of the port rudder which would have been mainly used on the route to Brittany. Without this appendage, safety on board was not in question and the boat was OK, although this required slower speeds.”

Le Cléac’h himself takes up the story, “I was sailing along Argentina, downwind, in always fast conditions. I was emerging from a very busy 24 hours with a depression which had deepened with very unstable wind and gusts which reached up to 50 knots. I heard a violent impact on the port rudder. I caught a glimpse of a wooden log. The impact was very violent, the rudder was largely torn off. It was a real setback. But even if that was a difficult moment, we knew that it was possible to continue sailing without a rudder. The weather would not have been so bad and we could still get to Brest.”

A second blow makes the stopover necessary

But then on Thursday February 15 around 0830hrs UTC Le Cléac’h experienced a sudden breakage of the central rudder of the Maxi Banque Populaire XI off the Brazilian coast, without any shock being felt on board. “I heard a loud “crack”, mechanically the rudder had just given way,” he explains. “Quickly, we had to adapt because on board everything had become so much more complicated”.

These two successive damages now require the skipper of the Banque de la Voile to make this  technical stopover so the team can precisely diagnose the situation and to consider the next possible steps for their round the world race. “Now the boat is difficult to control with only one rudder allowing us to steer. We have no other option than to put the race on hold and stop,” Le Cléac’h assures.

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