Pepe Ribes gives his view
Yesterday evening about 1900pm, the conditions were 15-17 knots, Southern Hemisphere trade winds, pretty light. We were sailing with the mainsail and J2, little waves, almost one metre waves, and we had the J1 hoisted, furled and prepared to drop.
In recent days we have had periods of using the J1, which is the largest forward sail, or the J2, which has less surface area, and was on the forestay holding the mast.
With the ranking updates we review the weather and it seemed that during the night the wind was going to drop and lift a bit, and we decided to use another genoa, the reacher, for the more open winds and to be ready to come down if the wind faded out so as not to lose so many miles.
During this manoeuvre we lowered the J1. Alex was on the bow disengaging and pulling the new sail, the J2, forward to the bow to plug and hoist it. It was just then when it broke the inside of the reel. Then I saw the genoa flying and within seconds the mast fell astern all in one piece. During the fall the boom hit and broke and then the mast was falling until it touched the water. Once in the water, within just a few seconds it began to sink and it went into the water about two feet from the base. Everything moved very fast. Then the mast started hitting against the hull and we had to cut everything – remove the sail, cut the rigging and throw everything overboard for safety. Because we did not want the mast to make a hole in the boat, which would leave us with a boat full of water or on the liferaft. Then, we tried to get rid of it as quickly as possible and, with nothing left, start the engine and begin heading to Salvador de Bahia.
In the IMOCA class there is a compulsory fixed forestay. Below it, there is a fixed furling forestay. Then within the furler is a metal shaft of about 25mm, it is the metal shaft that has sheared, as a perfect cut, and that is what let go of the forestay and broke the mast.
Yes, it's an entirely different problem [to the rig failure they suffered before the New York- Barcelona Race]. Going to Newport, at the top of the mast the second spreader broke, we believe that was a structural problem. We had another combination of sails, we were using the largest foresail with 25 knots of wind, and it was a different way that it broke. This time it was with little wind. It was a mechanical failure of a part that had been revised a month before the competition.
As a team, Hugo Boss have been working with this boat for a year and a half almost, apart from making modifications to improve the speed of the boat, after racing New York-Barcelona we saw that the issue of the reliability was very important as we had had many problems. They worked exclusively to improve the reliability of the boat. The rigging was changed, all cables and key fittings. A month earlier we sent a furler to the factory to check that there were no micro fractures. I was a bit cautious because of the problems we had with Estrella Damm. The connection to this piece of hardware on this yacht is totally different to the other boat, with a very flexible piece that does not have to fix to any rigid point, which is what we had problems with four years ago. The team has changed the motor, batteries, all the systems, making the boat more reliable to try to finish the race.
The truth is we had a good vibe on board, Alex and me. We had started the race well, we had been making tactical decisions in situations that had been fine, we had won and lost miles but overall the feeling was very good. Discussions on board when we were making decisions were good, we were very positive. Whenever we split from the fleet in distance we had just been earning miles, that gives you a moral boost and a lot of confidence in yourself for what lies ahead, especially in conditions we thought were not yet ideal for the boat, but we were doing a good race and making good tactics.
We were expecting to spend the next four or five days with the remaining light winds, and then get into the Southern Oceans and start having days of hard wind and big waves that were the conditions theoretically best for this boat. So on board the atmosphere was that we were super motivated, and working hard. The work has been very intense. The first 15 days, I think for all the teams, at least for the four boats we were with, it was a very, very tough job.