Important update from Team Limitless — steering issues force retirement from race, all aboard are safe and sound, headed home to San Pedro

Limitless headed back to San Pedro after steering issues force abandonment of race

IMPORTANT UPDATE FROM LIMITLESS

From Minda:

Good morning, All. I had not even had a chance to share Doug’s 1st update with you from yesterday. I have included it below.

But, the big news is that Limitless is turning back home and retiring from the race. I spoke with Doug this morning by Sat phone, and all the Crew is well and fine (though spirits may be low from the huge disappointment of not being able to continue). Apparently, an issue came up with the rudder (a lot of friction and grinding noises that did not improve over time) .So, after trying to remedy that problem, the Team reluctantly decided it would not be safe for them to continue the remaining 1,700 NM to Hawaii. They are now headed directly to Point Conception, and Doug estimates that they have 58 hours to go: ETA Monday, 7/16 around 2pm PDT. They are currently in 17 knots of breeze under sail doing 7.5 knots. From there, they will sail to San Pedro, with an ETA of Tuesday, 7/17, between Noon and 4pm PDT. Please see more detail from Doug below:

“We have had to make the tough decision to retire from the race. All team are OK. Please forward this to family members so that they know.

We started to experience binding sounds from the rudder post/bearing assemblies that we initially thought were coming from the rigging assemblies. However, after spending 12 hours pushing the boat hard in wind conditions from 14 to 23 knots, the sounds became louder and it was evident that there was an issue with the steering. We lowered the spinnaker to reduce loads and investigated. There is no action we can take to remedy the situation at sea, and made the decision to retire from the race, rather than continue to push at race pace. All are well. We are making a return to mainland, a trip which should take about three days.”

Also below, FYI, is Doug’s initial update from yesterday, when things were slow but optimistic:

2018 Team Limitless prepped to go

First of all, Happy Bastille day. Clement started the day off playing La Marseillaise, and is wearing his French national flag as he works! We are now playing Phoenix’ Wolfgang Amadeus. And, while Clement does not know it, that will be followed by Plastic Betrand’s “Ca Plane pour Moi”. A song that well pre-dates Clement!

The pre-race activities were hectic with final prep and loading of provisions for what was anticipated to be a 13-day and change trip, now looking like a 14-day and change trip! The night before we departed, Minda arranged for a fun Teppanyaki-style dinner for the entire crew, along with our San Francisco sailor friend Joan Byrne and her friend Jenny. During dinner, Shawn’s rental car was broken into, and an old A3 spin taken. Go figure! Drama that was not needed.

Start day rolled around, with grey skies sloping around San Francisco and a weather model that looked more like a funeral processional dirge than a useful tool for routing to sunny Hawaii. Final shopping was completed, crew loaded up and farewells made. We motored to the start area and prepped for the off.

Our main competition is the local hotshot and classic IOR yacht Sweet Okole. A gorgeous, strip-planked, wooden race yacht that has been to Hawaii so many times, you could just push her off the dock and she would find her own way home. It was quickly obvious that they were gunning for us as we wound up into the final start sequence. We used an unfortunate and not completely aware Hobie 33 as our pic, and trapped the Farr to weather of us and into a second row start. Off the line on starboard, we were able to cross them after a port tack and lead them all the way out of their home waters, right into the wall of nothing. After passing Point Bonita at the Northwest headland to San Francisco Bay, the wind shut off and the highly contested drift fest began in earnest.

And so the third morning finds us in glassy conditions well north of the usual route to Hawaii, after three days of slowly going nowwhere in particular. It is at this point in the story that I tell you, dear reader, (I’ve always wanted to write that), that we are storming along with a brightly coloured spinaker up in sunny surfing conditions. Well, we’re not. The sky is still as sullen as it was when we left San Francisco. This morning’s model suggests ten more days to Hawaii and we have food for nine! On the bright side Craig, managed to narrowly avoid having us cruished by an errant Coastal steamer tramp driver who was either asleep at the wheel or on anti depressants. In the end he admitted via VHF, that he would not crush us. Lucky days or rather nights for us indeed.

Competitive drifting will continue until Mother Nature decides she is done toying with us. She is the mother we all need, but she can be a real bitch at times.

Another update from Doug:

Limitless Retires.

I’m still trying to get my head around the fact that we are no longer racing. After 3 days of slow going, we finally got into the wind. The routing had us in a great position to start moving up the standings again. We were starting to build good runs with an A3 and a staysail set, reaching in breeze up to the low 20’s. There had been this low creaking sound in the previous days that we thought was a check stay that was too tight. I came on deck at midnight and started driving. The creaking sound was now very loud and the steering was behaving abnormally with some binding and definite movement between the tiller and the rudder post under load. We were seeing high 9’s and several bursts into 10’s, with a quartering sea state that meant a lot of helm input.

Unbeknownst to me, Clément, on the off watch, was below deck with a light on the rudder tube listening to the same sounds. At the watch change, 0300, we both simultaneously said, “we need to look into this.” We turned the boat down to try and unload things, and went below and aft. There is not much to see, as the boat has a solid rudder tube, with the rudder post and bearing assemblies inside and only accessible by hauling the boat. However, putting a hand on the rudder tube, we could clearly feel the bearings loading up and binding. These are new assemblies, but clearly something is amiss; and continuing to press at race pace could lead to a catastrophic failure. We spent the next 40 minutes discussing the options before Shawn, Clément and I came to the difficult conclusion to pull the plug. We cannot risk a total failure of the rudder shaft, which could in turn break the rudder tube and lead to flooding.

We are now headed home under a storm jib and a reefed mainsail to keep the loads down as best as possible. I start second guessing myself only to hear the awful creaking and grinding sound that reminds me, in order to compete properly everything must work 100%, 100% of the time.

Shawn has put in a tremendous amount of preparation and we assembled a really solid team. Every system was gone through, including removal of the rudder, new bearings and even some structural rudder repairs. We have some detailed investigative work to do when we get back. It is gutting to have to drop out, but the safety of the team and boat come first.

Limitless out.