Photo: Daniel Forster/Rolex
Rambler 100, holder of the transatlantic record and one of the favorites to win this year’s Fastnet Race, capsized this evening after losing her keel in moderate conditions. Race Manager, Ian Loffhagen, reports that all 21 crew have been rescued and Irish Coastguard services are coordinating the rescue.
Rambler 100, skippered by American George David, is perhaps the most technologically advanced mono-hulled racing yacht ever built, and she was designed for one purpose only… to break world sailing records.
At the time of her capsize, she was at, or near, record pace for this 608 nautical mile race around Fastnet Rock.
Her carbon-fiber hull is 100 feet long with distinctive hard chines running most of the length of her beam aft to her transom with a massive prod extending from her bow, allowing her to carry immense amount of sail area downwind.
Her keel, which in this case suffered a catastrophic failure, was mounted to a hydraulic swivel that allowed it to be canted to windward, counteracting the force of her sail plan. At full cant, a daggerboard is slid down (like a giant dinghy), through the hull to help provide hydrodynamic lift while sailing to windward. The following image shows the damage:
Photo: Carlo Borlenghi/Rolex
Unlike many of her predecessors, there isn’t a single “coffee grinder” to be found on deck. Instead, the hydraulic system that powers the movement of the keel is used to power the winches… and for good reason too. This boat is so nimble, and the loads are so incredibly high, that human-powered coffee grinders would not be practical.
Another design feature that very few other mono-hulled sailboats share with her is her deck-stepped mast. That is, the base of her mast rests on the deck, and does not extend down through the coachroof to the bilge.
In breeze, the resultant compression loads on the bulkhead located just below the mast are enormous, however this feature gives the sail trimmers the ability to trim the top of the mast forward while racing downwind, without fear of inverting, and possibly breaking the mast.
This isn’t the first time this boat has stared at failure, and considering her nature, probably won’t be the last. Sir Richard Branson sailed her in 2008, renamed her Virgin Money, (formerly Speedboat), and attempted to break the transatlantic record. Along the way however, they suffered a major blowout of their mainsail during a storm, ending their chances of a record breaking run.