Keel failure in the Pacific Ocean

Published on May 14th, 2020

It was a calm, mid-Pacific morning, around 1000 on May 31, 2019, when the keel finally let go.

The three crew of the New Zealand-registered Ran Tan II had known for 18 hours that the 50ft Elliott racing yacht had suffered a major keel failure and that it would soon fall off. They were prepared to abandon ship and knew rescue was on its way. They hoped it would arrive before the boat capsized.

The 13-year-old Ran Tan was one of New Zealand’s most ardent offshore campaigners. She’d been built in carbon fiber with a foam core and a lifting, canting keel in Auckland, New Zealand, in 2006. The lifting keel was later modified to a solely canting keel. In 2015, she was bought by Brian Petersen, 66, also a seasoned campaigner. His sailing CV includes the 5,500-mile, doublehanded Melbourne Osaka Race, which he sailed in 1991 and 1995 and won in 2003 as owner and skipper of the Elliott 45, Maverick 2.

In 2016, Petersen raced Ran Tan from Auckland to Fiji, then sailed across to New Caledonia for the Groupama Race. In 2017, Ran Tan did the Sydney-Hobart Race, hitting more than 30 knots down the coast to finish 15 on the line in 1 day, 23 hours and 34 minutes. In 2018, Ran Tan won the Auckland-Noumea Race and scored second in the Groupama. She also raced nearly every Friday and weekend. No one had counted the miles, but she had done well over the equivalent of a circumnavigation.

For 2019 Petersen planned a monster goal: the 2019 Transpac Race, from Los Angeles to Hawaii. The shipping costs were prohibitive, so he decided the boat would cross the 6,000 miles across the Pacific to Los Angeles on her own keel. Petersen skippered her to the Marquesas, where he handed her over to delivery skipper Keith Hogan for the final leg. Also on board were Kosta Popov and Nic Finlayson. All three were Ran Tan regulars. Full report.

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