Wednesday, 28 January 2009

VOR: E3 Safe after 'terrifying' ordeal

Ericsson 3 are the latest to turn around on leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race, giving up their second place and heading for Base Camp after structural damage saw them start to take on water. But a combination of emergency repair work and the bilge pumps have the situation under control. Image copyright Gustav Morin/Ericsson 3/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Volvo Ocean Race media

Ericsson 3 has made it to port in Keelung, Taiwan after a 24 hours in which she sustained a ruptured hull and began taking on water during a treacherous fourth leg passage off the Taiwanese coast.

She was met by a pilot boat and escorted into the harbor. Skipper Magnus Olsson informed the Race Office in Whiteley at 10:46 GMT that they had suspended racing.

It is a demoralizing end to a leg in which the Nordic crew had been holding down second place, ahead of sistership Ericsson 4, and closing on leader Telefonica Blue.

Through the night conditions on the race course were severe with wind speeds approaching 30 knots and rolling seas of up to seven metres when the crew discovered water coming into the boat from a "four-metre crack and an open hole" in the forward part of the hull.

Ericsson 3 head for Taiwan after discovering a large crack and a hole in the hull. Image copyright Gustav Morin/Ericsson 3/Volvo Ocean Race.

In an email this morning Media Crew Member Gustav Morin revealed the full scale of the precarious situation on board.

"Yesterday night I was terrified and today it’s been even worse," he wrote. "During the night the wind went from 10 to 40 knots and the sea state quickly became very bad. The boat was almost airborne from time to time, and it was slamming hard and rocking uncontrollably.

"I was sitting down below recording the action and watching it live. A surrealistic experience. In the biggest waves, the cameras switched themselves off and I was crossing my fingers that all the guys would turn up on the screen when the picture got back.

"Luckily they did, even though I think it was really on the limit many times. Early this morning, we found the bow compartment full of water and soon after that, a four-meter crack and an open hole in the hull.

"We were sinking! The water was pouring in from the hole and the bow section was delaminating. Everyone worked like crazy, pumping, bilging and sponging the water out.

"We took all the bunks down and cut them up to put them across the bow to strengthen it up. Now I’m sitting in my survival suit and all the safety equipment is ready up on deck. If the sea state gets worse again, the reinforcement will most probably crack and the boat will go down quick.

"It doesn’t feel like we are in that much danger anyway. We only have 20 miles left to land and the Taiwanese coastguard will soon come out to guide us in and pick us up if the boat sinks.

"The worst feeling for the moment is the huge disappointment from pulling out of the leg and the anxiety of how big the consequences will be from the delamination.

"We have fought extremely hard on this leg and we were in second place when this happened. But I guess we should mostly worry about keeping the boat above the surface right now."

A contignent of six shore crew and boat builders are currently en route to Keelung and will be on site to haul the boat out of the water tomorrow noon local time. A full evaluation of the damage will not be able to be made until after that.

Volvo Ocean Race

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