Keel problem delays whole racing fleet

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Organizers of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race cancel one stop to make necessary repairs

Organizers of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race cancel one stop to make necessary repairs

Keel problems sidelined the 10 Clipper Round the World Yacht Race boats for nearly a month between February and March during the sixth leg of the race.

Clipper Ventures, which organizes the race featuring mostly amateur crews, announced that the competition would restart March 25. Because of the lengthy delay, however, the organizers decided also to cancel the stop planned for Yokohama, Japan, and to switch the stopover at Curacao in the Caribbean to Port Antonino in Jamaica.

“The safety of crews was paramount in planning, and it was important to route the fleet through the Caribbean as soon as possible to avoid the peak of the hur- ricane season,” race chairman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston said in a news release.

Problems with the yachts surfaced Feb. 4 when team Glasgow reported having a loose keel bolt, organizers say. Team Glasgow and the other nine teams were redirected to the Subic Bay Yacht Club in the Philippines for a thorough inspection of the identical 68-footers.

A survey of the yachts helped identify an issue with the connection between the outer skin of the hull and the keel, Clipper Ventures says. “It appears that the connection between the solid laminate in the way of the keel was not tapered out properly into the foam sandwich of the rest of the hull,” Knox-Johnston explained in an e -mail to Soundings. “The connection was too abrupt, thus creating a point of weakness.”

The same problem was also found on the yachts of teams Durban and Vic-toria. Organizers decided to postpone the race until remedial work could be done to all of the boats.

After the yachts were hauled, each 11.5-ton lead and steel keel was removed, the hulls were cut back around the keel fastening area and the laminates were rebuilt with the correct taper, Knox-Johnston says. By early March he was confident that the race would continue. “We are pleased with the progress that is being made in the Philippines — the Race Team [is] working flat out to get this race back on the water,” he said in a news release. “The crews are already raring to go, and I will be happy to see them all racing again as soon as we know the boats are sound.”

While the repairs were happening, Clipper ventures flew many of the idle crewmembers back to their respective home countries and paid the living expenses for those that decided to remain in the Philippines, according to information on the race Web site, www.clipper-ventures.co.uk/2006 . Crewmembers were asked to return to Subic Bay between March 18 and 19.

The next stopover in the race will be in Qingdao, China. The race will continue on and make stops in Victoria, British Columbia; the Panama Canal; Port Antonino; New York City (around June 27 - July 4); and Jersey, England. Organizers plan to finish this summer in Liverpool, England, where the race kicked off in September 2005.