It can be easy to take for granted the incredible performance of today’s most cutting-edge grand prix racing boats. The latest crop of full-foiling 75ft America’s Cup monohulls, for example, were all up on their foils and even successfully tacking within hours of their first sail trials. Similarly, the doublehanded crew of Franck Cammas and Charles Caudrelier made it look almost easy covering over 17,000 miles in just 28 days at an average speed 24.57 knots on their way to victory in the Brest Atlantiques race.
Lest anyone think, though, that this kind of sailing is child’s play, there’s also the case of the fully-crewed maxi-tri Spindrift 2.
Earlier this week, just hours into its latest Jules Verne fully-crewed, round-the-word record attempt, the ill-fated boat (which was dismasted and lost a rudder in two earlier attempts) was forced to abandon due to rudder issues.
Reportedly, the crew lost control of its steering as soon as “its boatspeed went beyond 35-40 knots.” This does not appear to have been a case of hitting an “unidentified floating object,” or UFO, as was the case when Sodebo dropped out of the Brest Atlantiques. Instead, the boat’s basic designed simply failed to be able to stand up to the rigors of extreme sailing.
In skipper Yann Guichard’s words: “We seem to have had rudder issues for a year now. We broke one in the Indian Ocean last February and, as a result, decided to build two new ones. We had delivery of them in late September and have carried out several sea trials with them. We thought we had sorted the issue when we left La Trinité-sur-Mer on Tuesday. However, these rudders are like a sword of Damocles.”
Guichard goes on to say: "We tried a number of times to solve the problem, but it keeps reappearing at high speeds, and we cannot control Spindrift 2, even with two crew on the helm. It is not prudent to continue like this, because there is a risk of a total loss of the trimaran at high speed…though we have managed to regain control of the boat now, we cannot race around the world with this technical problem. "
Something to bear in mind next to you’re watching a video of some raceboat zipping its way across the open ocean! The only reason it can do so is because of a combination of outstanding seamanship and equally outstanding design. And neither of these things comes easy!
For a taste of what it’s like sailing a boat like Spindrift 2, see the video below, which was created while the boat was on standby for its latest record attempt.