As the boat rolled over, this time the rig continued to go under, and the boat was soon fully inverted or ‘turtled’ in sailing parlance. An inflatable buoy was attached to the bow and a long inflatable tube inserted down the inside of the hull to prevent sinking, whilst an INEOS diver dived down and affixed a further inflatable buoy to the masthead whilst the crew cut away the mainsail and jib for the chase boat to retrieve.
A side tow brought T6 back to the standard capsize position before righting and pumps were installed down below for a double chase boat tow back to base. INEOS Britannia’s shore team and sailors deserve the highest praise for salvaging the boat and with ‘T6’ safely ashore now, the full assessment of the damage can be undertaken.
Speaking about the incident, a determined Ben Ainslie commented: “We salvaged the best I think we could and finally got the boat upright and then to cap it off we had some major issues with the lithium batteries setting alight which was the final bit of carnage for the day…we’ve got the boat back in probably the best shape we could considering it went turtle and we’ll re-group and have a look at what the issues are and what caused it. The only positive was that we were about to go into an upgrade window so if this was going to happen, it’s not a bad time.”
And praising his outstanding team, Ainslie was effusive saying: “The team did a brilliant job. We sort of train for these things but until it actually happens, you’re never quite sure and that’s the first capsize we’ve had full turtle in these boats so plenty of learnings for us and I’m sure for the other teams watching but we’ll take it on the chin and come back from it.”
Better days ahead for INEOS Britannia for sure – and the shore team are already hard at work on the ‘Silver Bullet’ planning for the next two weeks’ shoreside programme.
On Water Recon Notes: INEOS Britannia suffered a setback to their campaign today after capsizing their T6 LEQ12 test boat during a fast and furious testing session in winds gusting to 18 knots on Palma Bay. The team had enjoyed two and half hours of high speed sailing in winds of 15 to 18 knots and had comfortably pulled off a number of foiling tacks and gybes as well as bear aways and roundups.
At shortly before 1600, after a blistering downwind run that had left the team’s chase boats and the recon team struggling to keep up, the boat rounded up onto a reach but then seemed to get out of kilter with leeward heel and a big bow up. After the subsequent splash down, the boat was quickly back up and foiling, but seconds later the crew seemed to lose control and the boat capsized.
It went over on its starboard side and was quickly righted with assistance from the shore crew after a bow tow line was swiftly attached to the team’s largest chase boat. However, as the boat came upright the crew seemed unable to depower the mainsail and shortly after the boat capsized a second time – this time on its port side.
As the support team scrambled to set up for a second righting the mast and sails began to disappear as the boat turned fully turtle with its two foils and rudder pointing skywards.
The team’s skipper Ben Ainslie – who had become separated from the boat – was quickly retrieved by a chase boat and immediately began to help coordinate the next stage of rescue operation. Meanwhile helmsman Giles Scott and flight controller/trimmer Bleddyn Mon had clambered over onto the bottom of the upturned hull where they were joined by boat captain Chris Schirmer.
With the boat upside down there was a risk of water ingress to the hull so the team attached a large inflatable buoy to the bow and fed a long sausage-shaped inflatable tube under the foredeck. After the team’s safety diver somehow managed to attach an inflatable buoy to the top of the inverted mast, a side tow line eventually got the boat back into the capsize position on to its starboard side. This enabled the crew to cut away the double skin M2 mainsail and the J3 headsail – which were both hauled aboard a chase boat – before a long period of coordinated towing from the two ribs (one on the bow, the other pulling laterally on a line first attached to the hull and then shifted to the upturned port foil) eventually brought the boat upright.
With the bow of the boat submerged up to the mast, the support crew had to move fast to get several pumps onto the boat to avoid it becoming swamped. There were a few tense moments before the bow began to rise again but soon it was obvious that the pumps and the multiple buckets that had been deployed had done the job. Then, with the tattered head of the mainsail and the orange inflatable buoy still at the top of the mast, T6 was coaxed gently towards Palma Port with a chase boat attached on either side.
Shortly before entering the harbour the crew had to deploy specialist fire extinguishers to deal with the boat’s now smouldering Lithium-Ion batteries.
Back on the dock at 1855 the shore team was ready and waiting to attach crane lines and start to tidy the boat up ready for haul out.
Dock out: 1215 Dock-in: 1855
1230: 110 at 12-15 knots, 1315: 080 12-16 knots, 1530: 080 15-18 knots
AM: Overcast 8-12 Celsius
PM: Sunny 14 Celsius
Helms: Giles Scott / Sir Ben Ainslie
Crew: Iain Jensen / Leigh McMillan (later swapped out for Bleddyn Mon)
Mainsail (MN2-1P): 3 hours
J3 (J3-1): 3 hours
Total Tacks: 5 – 1 foil-to foil, 3 touch & go, 1 touchdown
Total Gybes: 3 – 3 foil-to-foil
Recon Notes: Take offs all self.
Take-off speed: 18 knots (estimated) self at 60 degrees TWA (True Wind Angle)