Friday, 11 March 2011

VELUX5OCEANS: Keel Repairs Begin on Operon Racing Ahead of Velux 5 Oceans Sprint 4

Operon Racing is taken out of the water for keel repairs. Image copyright Ainhoa Sanchez/onEdition.

by Sarah Hames

ZBIGNIEW ‘Gutek’ Gutkowski’s Eco 60 Operon Racing has been lifted out of the water in Uruguay for keel repairs ahead of ocean sprint four of the VELUX 5 OCEANS. A composite part surrounding the keel pins broke during ocean sprint three allowing the keel to move several millimetres.

The Operon Racing team took her from her berth in Punta del Este marina bound for Piriapolis, around 18 kilometres west. The boat yard in Piriapolis is the only one with a hoist powerful enough to haul the 19-year-old Eco 60 out of the water.

Gutek first noticed the problems with the keel as he approached Cape Horn after sailing more than 4,000 nautical miles from Wellington, New Zealand. He reported hearing a knocking sound. Later it was discovered the composite part covering the keel pins had broken, allowing the keel to move by a few millimetres.

Deciding to press on towards the finish line in Punta del Este, Uruguay, Gutek was forced to race with his keel fully canted to reduce its movement. Amazingly, Gutek clung to second position after a photo finish which saw Operon Racing beat Chris Stanmore-Major’s Spartan across the line by just 40 seconds.

Operon Racing's keel reflected in a puddle of water. Image copyright Ainhoa Sanchez/onEdition.

“I am hoping that once the keel is repaired Operon Racing will be back up to full speed,” Gutek said. “With the problems with the keel, rounding Cape Horn was a nervous time for me. It will be nice knowing that in the next sprint I can push Operon Racing to her limits again.”

Although the Eco 60 class rules state yachts cannot be lifted out of the water during the duration of the race, there is an exception if the lift is necessary on the grounds of safety. Operon Racing is expected to spend around five days out of the water while the keel work is completed ahead of the next sprint to Charleston, USA, which starts on March 27.