Saturday, 14 February 2009

VOR: Blow for Telefonica Blue

In a dramatic opening to leg five of the Volvo Ocean Race, minutes before the start gun fired, Telefónica Blue (Bouwe Bekking/NED) dropped her sails and returned to port, leaving a fleet reduced to three boats to contest the start in Qingdao. Image copyright Dave Kneale/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Volvo Ocean Race media

Telefonica Blue’s bid for a third straight leg win hangs in the balance after a collision before the start gun left them with serious damage to their keel fin.

The team had been jostling for position at the pre-start when they seemingly ran aground, causing the boat’s speed to drop suddenly from seven knots to zero.

They attempted unsuccessfully to diagnose the problems on the water, but after suspending racing and returning to shore the boat was hoisted out and it emerged there was a crack on the port side of the keel fin.

Bekking, who is gunning for his third straight leg win, has now revealed the team will remove the keel bulb for inspection and repairs could take up to 24 hours.

“We can’t take any risk on a 12,000-mile leg so we just have to take a real thorough look at it now to see what the consequences are. We need to give it a good look.”

The incident came as a surprise to the crew, most notably because they were sailing in depths of 11 metres and the nearest chartered shallow area was 110 metres away.

“We were in the middle of the ocean and we knew there was one shallow spot that is charted at three metres, but we were 110 metres away from that,” Bekking added. “We went from 11 metres of water to full stop. There shouldn’t be any reason for that.

“Everyone just looked at each other, I was driving at that stage and we knew we were away from the charted shallow spot. We tried to send one of the chase boat guys over to look but the water is so murky it was not possible to see so we came back.

“We suspended racing two and a half minutes before the start.”

The success of the team’s leg now hangs, quite literally, in the balance as the boat heads to a cradle for a full inspection of the keel. Bekking is keeping his fingers crossed.

“We are going to take the bulb off and have a look,” he said. “That crack shouldn’t have been there. We have to do it the proper way. I think it’s closer to 24 hours and most likely we are going to be ultrasounding. We have to be 100 per cent sure.”

“(A structural problem) would be a major and then it’s a drama. I don’t want even to think about that.”

Meanwhile, Ericsson 3 was 12 miles from the finish of their eventful leg four.

Volvo Ocean Race

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