Sunday, 22 March 2009

VOR: Back in Black

Telefonica Black undergoes repairs in Rio de Janeiro during the Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09. The boat was forced to miss Leg 5 from Qingdao to Brazil having sustained major damage during Leg 4, and will rejoin the race for Leg 6 to Boston. Image copyright Dave Kneale/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Riath Al-Samarrai

There were a few dark clouds over Rio de Janeiro this afternoon, but Telefonica shore manager Campbell Field was only looking for the silver linings.

His team are likely to face a tough battle against the clock with the partially damaged Blue boat forecasted to arrive barely a week before the April 4 in-port race.

But Field is fully aware it could have been tighter if the Black boat was on the race track instead of on a cradle, undergoing final repairs to the serious damage sustained on leg four.

"In an ideal world both boats would have raced to Rio, but we are taking advantage of the disadvantage," he said. "It relieves a bit of the pressure in the week before the in-port race. I'd be sitting here seriously concerned right now if I was waiting for two boats to come in towards the end of the next week. We'd be striking non-critical items off the work list."

As it stands, however, the Black boat's ailments have received "thorough treatment" in its extended stopover.

The boat has been in Rio since March 5, nearly six weeks after retiring from leg four with a cracked hull. Initially the boat returned under sail to Singapore before being shipped to Rio, where the damage - a compression failure on the starboard side sheerline - is expected to be fixed in time for it to return to the water next Thursday.

"We have a bit to do," Field added. "Our ambition is to get it on the water and sailing before the Blue boat gets in, which will be at the end of next week. We are scheduled to use the crane next Wednesday. Obviously we need to get the boat back on the keel, get the rig back in and do a measurement weight of the boat. I anticipate we will launch early on Thursday."

To achieve that target Field recruited five extra staff to his existing team of seven boat builders, using the quintet to work specifically on the repair.

Field anticipates that a "significant" amount of lead will have to be removed from the keel bulb to compensate for the weight going into the repair, but he said it would not be "shocking".

His more pressing concern at the moment is the Blue boat.

"The schedule here is such that there will be little time between the arrival and the in-port race. We'll be working pretty flat out to get her ready."

The boat's most documented issue has been with the forestay, which failed a fortnight ago and severely compromised the team's ability to reach or sail upwind.

Field is not yet certain of the reasons behind the failure. He said: "We have worked on some theories, a bit of speculation. But until we get the part in our hands and conduct some tests it is just speculation."

Volvo Ocean Race

No comments: