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Ian Roman/Volvo Ocean Race
Team Sanya skipper Mike Sanderson has been left lost for words today after his Chinese team’s starboard rudder bearing snapped as they were leading the fleet on Leg 5 from New Zealand to Brazil.

“We’ve been in preservation mode for the past few hours. We had to save the boat" - Mike Sanderson

The breakage happened as Sanya was travelling at high speed and immediately sent the boat into a crash gybe with water pouring into the aft compartment.

After some swift action by the crew to seal off the stern section and get the boat back under control a fuller damage assessment revealed that the starboard rudderstock had sheared off inside the hull.

Still weighing up his team’s immediate options Sanderson said the most urgent priority had been to plug the hole torn in the aft of the boat when the rudderstock snapped.

“We’ve been in preservation mode for the past few hours,” he said. “We had to save the boat.

“The rudder snapped in between the boat and the deck, which is just the worst thing that can happen because then it just leverages itself off he boat and leaves a pretty messy trail.”

“The thing is we had all the sails stacked aft on deck, we had the aft ballast tank and the whole all the gear stacked downstairs in the back of the boat,” Sanderson said. “So as soon as we stopped of course water just started rushing in. It is the second time we’ve heard water coming into this boat at that sort of pace, so it’s pretty scary.

“The whole aft compartment was full of water, about three to four tonnes and it was pressing.

Sanderson said the crash gybe immediately following the incident had laid the boat almost flat and taken a considerable time to recover from.

“We went into a Chinese gybe, so suddenly we’re pinned on our side dragging the sails through the water with a lot of heel on,” he said. “We had the keel out the wrong side and the sail stack all on the wrong side. But you know, it’s just a process you work through and take your time.

The rudder snapped as Sanya were leading the fleet and sailing at speeds of around 25 knots. According to Sanderson this made the current situation all the harder to swallow particularly after putting on an impressive performance during the Auckland stopover.

“We were very pleased with our leg from a performance standpoint. We won the pro-am race, we got a fourth in the in-port race and we led the fleet out of Auckland,” he said.

“We were really pleased we were in a lead and in a really nice spot to extend our lead. We were sailing along pretty fast, between 20-30 knots of boat speed in nice conditions with winds gutting up to 30 knots, when these boats are at their fastest,” he said.

“We’re just gutted, it hasn’t even quite sunk in for sure.

“But first and foremost is ensuring everyone is safe and well. The guys have just finished fixing the hole, which has taken a couple of hours and we’ve fitted the emergency steering.

“But we’re not out of the woods yet, we’ve got a temporary repair on the back of the boat and we have plenty of work ahead of us yet.”


  • This boat is unlucky. Remember what it did to the guys of Telefonica last time. Best of luck to Mike and the guys of Sanya, but be aware!


  • OK Mike, the race is one thing, but good seamanship is paramount, and nobody can deny yours! You deserve a top notch boat next time. Get home safely.

  • Wow you guys are hero,s pushing this last generation boat to the extent you have .What tough luck .But great seamanship to recover & make the right call to return to nz for repairs .Cheers

  • That is such a tough break, and well done to the team on saving not only themselves but the boat as well. But it further supports what I posted a few days ago. A used VOR racer is worth about NZ$4.75 only. (Half a beer at Auckland's Viaduct.) They should be chainsawed into a skip after the race, to discourage people putting themselves at risk in a boat that has been abused beyond what are even unreasonable limits.

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Ian Roman/Volvo Ocean Race

UK, Cowes. 11th August 2011. Skipper Mike Sanderson onboard Team Sanya, during training, prior to the start of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12.