For most sailors, a collision at sea with a ship would be an emergency event that would likely send them scurrying to the nearest possible port. Not Michel Kleinjans. When Kleinjans’s boat collided with a containership 210 miles east of the Bahamas, Kleinjans, sailing solo in the Portimao Global Ocean Race, shrugged it off and kept sailing the remaining 420 miles to Charleston to finish the penultimate leg of the race. What makes this more impressive still is that when Kleinjans reached Charleston and his Open 40 Roaring Forty was pulled out of the water, it was found to be heavily damaged by the dust-up with the ship (no report on the ship’s damage). Since Roaring Forty needs extensive repairs, race director Josh Hall decided to postpone the start of the race’s last leg several days so Roaring Forty can undergo repairs.
From the press release: Following consultation between the double-handed teams in the Portimao Global Ocean Race, the stop over’s hosts &mdash the South Carolina Maritime Foundation – and the Race Director, Josh Hall, it has been decided that the start of Leg 5 from Charleston, South Carolina, to Portimao, Portugal, will be delayed by four days, allowing the completion of vital work on Michel Kleinjan’s damaged Open 40, Roaring Forty. Originally scheduled for Sunday 31st May, the start of the circumnavigation’s final leg will now take place on Thursday 4th June at 1030 local (1430 GMT).
In the pre-dawn of Saturday 16th May, Leg 4 of the Portimao Global Ocean Race took a highly dramatic turn for the fleet’s solo sailor Michel Kleinjans. After 21 days and 4,300 miles of racing from the tropical island of Ilhabela, Brazil, to Charleston, South Carolina, Kleinjans and his Open 40 Roaring Forty collided with an eastbound container ship approximately 210 miles east of Grand Bahama.
Fortunately, the Belgian single-hander was uninjured, but the boat was mortally wounded with major structural damage to the port side sustained from the impact including a split in the hull-deck joint around the chainplates; damage to the main internal bulkhead and the port ballast tanks. Faced with damage that would have forced many sailors to head for the nearest port, Kleinjans nursed his stricken Open 40 for the remaining 420 miles to the finish line off Charleston, first skirting strong winds by heading east away from the finish and then committing to the building breeze and rocketing directly across the turbulent Gulf Stream in 40 knots gusts, successfully completing the leg without outside assistance in a display of immense seamanship.
As soon as Kleinjans reported the extent of the damage immediately after the collision, the Portimao Race Organisation team and the South Carolina Maritime Foundation began preparation for repair work onshore in Charleston by booking a boatshed at Charleston’s Pierside Boatworks and assembling a team of highly experienced, specialist boat builders. However, once Roaring Forty was craned from the water having crossed the finish line, it became apparent that the power of the collision had been immense. Race Director, Josh Hall, explains the situation: “Once the carbon specialists had fully investigated the areas affected, it became clear that the damage was more extensive than originally thought,” he said on Wednesday afternoon (27/05). “The other skippers in the race have agreed unanimously that we should delay the start so that the fleet can set off across the North Atlantic together for the final leg of the race.”
For Kleinjans, much of the Charleston stopover has been spent at Pierside Boatworks. “They’re just starting on the rebuilding now,” said Kleinjans on Tuesday afternoon. “They have to work inside the ballast tanks and fit a mould on the inside before laminating the carbon,” explains the Belgian yachtsman. “The major problem is reinforcing the area around the chainplate and &mdash of course – the drying times of each lamination.” Kleinjans is a highly experienced solo sailor and crossing the Atlantic without the fleet would present no problems, but he is grateful the double-handed teams have agreed to the postponement. “I have no problem leaving behind the others,” he comments. “But it would mean they would have to spend more time waiting for me in Portimao and it is more exciting to race together and arrive together.”
As work on Roaring Forty continues round the clock, progress is rapid. “We’ve got the project opened up at the moment and the â€¢destruction’ part has now stopped and we are laminating,” reported Jeffrey Wargo, project manager of the team working on the Open 40 on Tuesday. “When we opened up the ballast tanks we found that the baffles had all been crushed and we’re going to have to replace those,” he continues. “We now have to rebuild the chainplates, but some of the repairs have been completed already and the bulkhead tabs have been ground back and relaminated.” Wargo’s team are currently rebuilding the yacht’s bowsprit which split in the collision, although concerns that the mast made fatal contact with the containership’s hull have been allayed. “The rig is very strong,” confirms Wargo. “There’s just a bit of delamination to one of the spreaders &mdash that’s all.”