Wednesday, 4 February 2009

VOR: No Rest for the Wicked

Qingdao - China. Telefonica Blue, Ericsson 4 and Green Dragon in the shed for maintenance work. Image copyright Rick Tomlinson/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Riath Al-Samarrai

If the saying is true, and there is actually 'no rest for the wicked', then you can only wonder about the evil lives of some of the teams' shore staff.

As a cold night made way for a marginally less cold Tuesday morning in Qingdao, hefty work lists were still a way from being completed.

Some of the boats are further along the process than others - Ericsson 4, PUMA and Telefonica Blue all expect to be back in the water tomorrow - but a few are less fortunate.

Green Dragon's shore crew, for example, will be working between 18 and 20 hours a day to remedy the effects of leg four. Even then Johnny Smullen, their boss, is not predicting a return to the water before Thursday night.

Telefonica Black, meanwhile, will reach Singapore in the next couple of days before concluding repairs to their yacht. The challenge of then getting to Qingdao by February 14 for leg five has not yet been formally declared impossible, but it seems highly unlikely the team will compete in leg five. Expect to see Telefonica Black heading for Rio by transport.

Ericsson 3 think they can fix the boat in Taiwan and reach Qingdao in time, but Saturday's in-port race is out of the question. With the boat arriving at a new shipyard in Taiwan, the team is starting the repair in earnest tomorrow.

And Delta Lloyd? They will get to Rio de Janeiro, but it will not be under sail.

A hard leg for the sailors - more work for the shore crew

Qingdao - China. PUMA Ocean Racing in the shed for maintenance work. Image copyright Rick Tomlinson/Volvo Ocean Race.

"It was a hard leg for a lot of the guys," said Smullen.

"Hard on the shore crews," added Telefonica's Campbell Field.

It would have been harder were it not for the giant tent that gives this unique race village an even more different feel. Whereas shore crews would normally do their business in the public glare, the weather is so cold in Qingdao - it rarely gets above six degrees - that work has been taken inside a huge temporary structure.

"We just wouldn't be able to do what we need to do if we were outside," said PUMA shore boss Neil Cox. "To work with the resins you ideally need more than 12 degrees and outside it's not getting up there any time soon."

Customs have also been less than hasty amid the celebrations of the Chinese New Year. For Cox it meant a two-day delay on the arrival of their new boom from Rhode Island.

"Because of the delay, the time we have to fit it to the boat has been compressed, but we're ready to get to work now," he said. "Getting the boom off the truck is only a small piece of the overall picture. The other important part is weighing the new part for displacement and measurement certificate. We also need to prep it up a bit for the offshore legs as it takes much more of a beating than during in-shore sailing, and, we need to put all the stickers on for Volvo.

"My advice for anyone shipping anything to China is do not ship during the Chinese New Year! It has been a pretty difficult process getting the new boom through customs, but we're relieved it's now here."

Volvo Ocean Race

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