Wednesday, 28 January 2009

VOR: Delta Lloyd Withdraws from Leg 4

Delta Lloyd (Roberto Bérmudez/ESP pictured) turns back to Taiwan. Image copyright Sander Pluijm/Team Delta Lloyd/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Cameron Kelleher

The war of attrition on leg four claimed another victim this evening when Delta Lloyd reported that it was retreating to Taiwan with structural wounds.

One of the bow bulkheads on the boat has fractured and is delaminating. The crew has been pumping water out and the watertight area is closed in order to prevent further ingress.

The Dutch-Irish entry had been holding fourth place in a battle against torrid conditions off the Taiwanese coast when discretion got the better of valour.

Skipper Roberto Bermudez and his crew are now heading for the sanctuary of the port of Keelung, off the northern tip of Taiwan, where earlier today Ericsson 3 took refuge after rupturing their hull – and taking on water – in horrendous seas.

A few hours before the Delta Lloyd crew detected the cracked bulkhead, the mainsail had been torn, making a decision to backtrack inevitable.

“We are very disappointed, as we really wanted to do well in this leg. But Chuny (Bermudez) doesn’t take any risks in terms of the crew’s safety,” said Media Crew Member Sander Pluijm.

“At the time we discovered the crack, we were sailing under storm jib and with three reefs in the main. Especially with the cold Chinese weather coming up, it was irresponsible to continue racing. We informed the coast guard and put the safety procedure into operation.”

The crew has not officially suspended racing and is awaiting further inspection in Taiwan.

Pluijm added: “Due to the delamination, the hull is absorbing water, which softens the bow that might break by wave slamming. That is the biggest risk now.” Therefore the crew closed the watertight bow compartment.”

The brutal conditions on leg four with gusts up to 50 knots and seven-metre seas, have exacted a heavy toll on the fleet. Telefonica Black has retired and is undergoing repairs in Subic Bay, Philippines, while Ericsson 3 has now joined them on the inactive list.

The other walking wounded, PUMA (broken boom) and Green Dragon (bow structure damage), continue their progress to Qingdao.

Ericsson 3 will be hailed out tomorrow afternoon and the damage assessed. Delta Lloyd is expected to join them in Keelung in the next few hours.

The crew of E3 is reported safe and without injury. The shore crew in on site and has begun the preparations for repair work.

"Our boatbuilding and design teams are analyzing the repair options," according to 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."

Meanwhle, on the race track, Telefonica Blue continues to head the depleted fleet as the leading trio point their noses towards Qingdao. By the 19:00 Position Report, Bouwe Bekking’s men had 422 miles remaining to the leg finish.

Telefonica Blue a 27-mile advantage over Ericsson 4 with PUMA just three miles back in third. Green Dragon was proceeding with caution - 260 miles adrift and still grappling with the worst of the elements.

Bekking is expecting plenty of close-quarter combat between now and the finish. And it’s not just Ericsson 4 and PUMA on his mind and on his radar.

"We are close to the entrance of the major port of Shanghai and the commercial ships are flying around us everywhere, so it’s a matter of keeping a good eye on the radar and having a good lookout on deck. The last thing the commercial ships are expecting is a sailing boat in the middle of the winter,” he said.

"It looks like finally we can crack our sheets and start sailing a direct course to Qingdao, and if we are lucky we might even see a spinnaker for the last 100 miles, but again it looks like we will on the receiving end, and the boats behind us have better breeze.

"But we have shown to be good in boats against boat situations. We showed that in the previous leg.”

Latest Positions of the Four Remaining Boats in Leg 4

1. Telefonica Blue
2. Ericsson 4
3. PUMA Ocean Racing
4. Green Dragon
Suspended Racing: Delta Lloyd and Ericsson 3
DNF: Telefonica Black
DNS: Team Russia

Volvo Ocean Race

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