Wednesday, 28 January 2009

VOR: Ericsson 3 Reaches Taiwan in Safety

The crew of Ericsson 3 before the start of Leg 4. Image copyright Oskar Kihlborg/Ericsson Racing Team.

by Victoria Low

Ericsson 3, the Nordic crew entry of Ericsson Racing Team in the Volvo Ocean Race, safely reached the Taiwanese port of Keelung today shortly before noon GMT.

The crew is reported safe and without injury. Ericsson 3 has suspended racing on Leg 4 of the Volvo race, from Singapore to Qingdao, China.

Ericsson Racing Team's shore crew is on site in Keelung, on the northern coast of Taiwan, to oversee the hauling and repair of the yacht. The boat is expected to be hauled tomorrow afternoon.

"Our boatbuilding and design team are second to none, and they are analyzing the repair options," said Richard Brisius, Ericsson Racing Team General Manager. "It's a significant repair, but we think that we have the ability to get the yacht ready for Leg 5. First we need to inspect the full damage, and we won't be able to make a proper assessment until the yacht is hauled."

Ericsson 3 last evening was placed second on the leg some 650 nautical miles from the finish and eyeing a podium position. The crew was sailing upwind in gale-force winds and steep waves.

"During the night the wind went from 10 to 40 knots and the sea state quickly became very bad. We had to take down the main in a hurry," said Ericsson 3 media crewman Gustav Morin. "All hands were called on deck and the guys were fighting blood and tears to get it down. The boat was almost airborne from time to time, and it was slamming hard and rocking uncontrollably."

The mainsail was ripped as it was being lowered shortly after midnight GMT. Onboard sailmaker Martin Stromberg went below to get some tools and material to repair it, and he discovered the galley flooded. Upon further inspection the watertight bulkhead was found flooded.

"The crew made a fantastic effort to resolve the situation quickly," said navigator Aksel Magdahl. "It seemed to be quite a large area that had become delaminated, between four and six square meters on the port side. You could almost stick your hand through the crack."

Once the water was cleared boat captain Jens Dolmer, watch captain Richard Mason and the rest of the crew made repairs with materials from the pipe berths and engine box cover. The engine box cover was used as flooring and the pipe berths braced it in place against the underside of the deck. Sikaflex was used to seal everything together.

"The guys were very calm, no one panicked," said Magdahl. "Magnus stayed on the helm while the rest of the crew worked on bailing out the boat."

Ericsson 3 is the third yacht to suspend racing on Leg 4. The two others have rejoined the race. A fourth yacht has withdrawn from the leg, leaving five yachts, including overall race leader Ericsson 4, racing towards the finish in Qingdao.

"We are terribly disappointed and gutted for them. They've sailed and an excellent leg and were on for a podium position," said Ericsson 4 navigator Jules Salter. "I have been in that position before and it was pretty hard. They've been robbed as they did the hard bit."

Launched in early 2008, Ericsson 3 had completed nearly 15,000 nautical miles during training before the Volvo race began last October. According to the 0112 GMT position report, about an hour after the leak was discovered, Ericsson 3 was sailing in 24 knots of wind and experiencing a rough, 3.5-metre seaway.

Ericsson Racing Team

Volvo Ocean Race

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