The Brigitte Bardot lay hanging from twin 500-ton cranes when I arrived in Fremantle to commence repairs on her broken wing. Crewmember Simon Ager described the gut-wrenching sound he heard in the middle of the night, a few weeks earlier, when the hull cracked under the weight of a 40-foot falling wave.
The massive impact of tons of water slamming the airborne pontoon was enough to crush the port side wing and cause structural delamination. An immediate return to port was necessary for the safety of the ship and crew. The pontoon may indeed have ripped off entirely had the crew not lashed and strapped the pontoon to the rest of the ship.
Captain Paul Watson, onboard the Steve Irwin, escorted the Bardot to the safety of Fremantle Harbor after the incident, which occurred in the "furious 50" latitudes in the Southern Ocean.
As soon as the damage had occurred and with the ship en route for Fremantle, Architect Nigel Irens assisted Sea Shepherd in finding the best team to do the repair work. Sea Shepherd was very fortunate to have the knowledge and experience of Mr. Irens, who first conceived the Brigitte Bardot, originally Adventurer, in the late 1990's in Southampton UK for a world-record breaking circumnavigation.
With the Bardot being a high performance planing multihull, repairs of such an extent were no ordinary fix-it job and a world-class team would have to be assembled. Nigel put Sea Shepherd in touch with Boatspeed Performance Sailcraft. Started by Peter and Sari Ullrich in 1986 and specializing in composite race-boat construction.
Boatspeed's first contracts were Naval Architect Ben Lexcen's designs including a number of skiffs and offshore racing yachts. They designed and built the Boatspeed 23 sport-boat class and built or reconstructed over 50 composite race yachts. Some of their builds include the vessels Brindabellas 1&2, 97, Yendys, Ragamuffin, Margaret Rintoul 5, Heaven Can Wait, Telefonica Movistar, Prudential, Nicorette, Bols and the Nigel Irens. The team designed round the world trimarans B&Q Castorama for Dame Ellen Macarthur and Sodebo for Thomas Coville. Their purpose-built facility at Somersby is acknowledged as the most advanced composite facility in the Southern Hemisphere and houses a 170' composite oven.
Thankfully, Peter Ullrich was willing to bring his team to us, in Fremantle, and after an initial survey, shipped all necessary equipment across Australia in time for the repairs to begin. Once on land, the ship's crew arranged scaffolding and a hermetically sealed plastic structure surrounding all damaged areas, to keep any dust created by the repairs sealed in.
After shoring up the pontoon back into place, Boatspeed began cutting up the damaged pontoon and wing to get to the transverse frames and assess the extent of the damage. It is with much enthusiasm that Sea Shepherd announces that "our bird" will fly again-after major work is complete March 10th. Veteran ship's electrician and Engineer Brad Latimer, crewmember and welder Lars Steffens, and on-shore volunteers are busy prepping the rest of the ship for re-launch.
Volunteers will complete the painting of the new repaired areas and 2 x 500 ton cranes will once more lift the Brigitte Bardot into the sea for test trials in April; in time for Sea Shepherd's next campaign.
Many thanks from all of us on the repair team to all our supporters for your generous donations which will enable us to complete the repairs!