Barnacles – the scourge of solo circumnavigators

DAY 120: Barnacles – the scourge of solo circumnavigators

Dateline 16:00 UTC  29.10.2018 – Hobart, Tasmania

When Uku Randmaa set off from the Film gate in Hobart in third place within the Golden Globe Race fleet last Saturday, he was not thinking about closing the gap between 2nd placed Dutchman Mark Slats, but how to keep ahead of 4th placed Susie Goodall, due into Hobart tomorrow night.

His problem? Barnacles. The bottom of his Rustler 36 One and All is covered in them, and not being a keen swimmer, he is left wondering how to get rid of all these speed-sapping encrustations. It is not helped by the fact that he forgot to pack his mask and fins before leaving Les Sables’ d’Olonne at the start of the Race.

The barnacle growth on Randmaa’s yacht One and All – a problem shared with several skippers. Is the cause a failure of modern antifouling systems…or simply not applying enough paint?

Don McIntyre, the Race Chairman currently in Hobart to welcome the leading sailors, reports: “I’ve never seen anything this bad in my entire sailing life. I felt so sad waving goodbye knowing that they will continue to grow every day to the finish. He left with a best estimate drag penalty of 0.5 – 1knot for every hour he is sailing. That’s 12-24 miles lost every day for the next 100 days!”

But the Estonian sailor is not alone with his dilemma. Finnish entrant, Tapio Lehtinen, currently languishing in 6th place, reported the same issue yesterday. Wondering why his Gaia 36 Asteria was not keeping pace with Susie Goodall’s DHL Starlight, and losing ground to Istvan Kopar’s Tradewind 35 Puffin – two weeks ago, the two were trading places on an almost daily basis – he dived over the side to check his rudder and was shocked to find the hull infested with goose barnacles. It answered his question, but being down at 41°S, the water temperature is around 11°C, which he decided was it too cold to hang about in. The encrustations proved too hard to remove anyway and Tapio says that he will need to make a scraper between now and Hobart, ready to tackle the problem there.

Mark Slats has also suffered from a barnacle infestation on his Rustler 36 Ohpen Maverick. On October 4, the Dutchman reported: “I was incredibly surprised how many barnacles were attached on the bottom of the boat. I went into the water during a calm period and needed 2 hours to clean the bottom. I used a filling knife followed by sandpaper and then finished with a scourer. I came out of the water like an ice cube. The water was freezing cold and really hurt my forehead, but after fifteen minutes you get used to it.”

Are these experiences a damning indictment to the ineffectiveness of modern antifouling paints? These boats all had their bottoms painted at the end of May and the coatings have not even lasted 6 months – and for the last 6 weeks or so in very cold water.

Lionel Regnier, who assisted both Uku Randmaa and GGR leader Jean-Luc Van Den Heede during their final preparations, says: “The antifouling was applied to Uku’s boat just after Jean-Luc’s. Uku’s had only 2 coats applied, but Jean-Luc who used the same process and applicator, had a third coat plus a ‘hot’ top coat mixed with copper powder which erodes as the boat passes through the water. The only barnacles are attached to the gel coat.”

Early today, Jean-Luc, now almost half way across the Pacific, some 2,000 miles ahead of Mark Slats, reported by satphone that he had been running under spinnaker for the past 48 hours and making 7knots. “Spinnaker up night and day! A little too stressful to sleep!”

He has only a couple of barnacles on the hull above the antifouling and says “It feels like a Pacific cruise with easy miles.” The 73-year old added that he still has a good variety of food onboard including onions and garlic, 150 litres of water – and plenty of wine! Apart from his family, he is missing nothing. The Matmut skipper expects to round Cape Horn on November 21.

Barnacles apart, Randmaa was also in good spirits at the Hobart stopover, despite losing weight. “Yes, I have lost some kilograms…and will lose more so I will be looking much younger when I get back to the finish,” he joked. And fun? “That is one of the most important things. You have to be enjoying yourself, but sometimes it is hard!”

He also expressed satisfaction with his choice of boat. “Rustlers are 1st to 4th, and I have no issues with the rig or sails.” He did however admit that he only had one winch handle, after forgetting to pack spares.

Of storms, he said every one was different. “During one, I took all my sails down. I don’t have a drogue – I believe it is too dangerous to stop the boat, but in bad conditions I tow warps which keeps the stern facing the seas. During one storm I used my spinnaker sheets – they were dirty and needed a wash, and towed four of them behind the boat.`’

He says that the worst damage to sails can often occur during calms rather than storms. “It is not good for them to flog about, so I take them down. I may lose some miles, but worth it (to avoid damage).”

For the full interview click here.

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This article was written and/or edited by the UK-based MIN team.

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