Sunday, 8 February 2009

VOR: Update on Ericsson 3 Repairs in Taiwan

Ericsson 3 is arrives in Hualien, Taiwan, where an 8 metre piece of the bow will be pulled out and replaced before they continue the remaining leg 4 journey to Qingdao. Image copyright Gustav Morin/Ericsson Racing Team/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Victoria Low

Far from the spotlight that will shine this weekend on the Qingdao In-Port Race, other members of Ericsson Racing Team are toiling around the clock in Hualien, Taiwan, carrying out repairs to Ericsson 3.

Boatbuilders Batt Ison and Rick Douglas working on shaping the new piece for the bow.
Image copyright Gustav Morin/Ericsson Racing Team/Volvo Ocean Race.

In an effort that can only be described as bigger than Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, the team is replacing a large section of the hull and hoping to get Ericsson 3 ready to sail to Qingdao by mid-next week so that it can join the Volvo Ocean Race fleet on Leg 5 to Rio de Janeiro no later than two days after the Feb. 14 start.

“We couldn’t have any more balls in the air if you tried,” said Nordic crew watch captain Richard Mason. “We have an enormous amount of things to do to get our boat back in the race, and that is our primary goal.”

By rough count, Mason and his mates are juggling no fewer than three balls.

Ball No. 1 is the team in Hualien, on the central East Coast of Taiwan. That team includes members of the Nordic crew (skipper Magnus Olsson, boat captain Jens Dolmer and media crewman Gustav Morin), boatbuilders, shore crew and managers of Ericsson Racing Team.

“At the moment there are a couple of key points,” Mason said. “Our boat is in the yard and we have managed to cut away the damaged section of the bow, which has now got a hole big enough that you can walk through. We have checked the rest of the boat with sonic sounding and found no further delamination, which is great. No other gremlins are going to come out.”

Skipper Magnus Olsson fixing a block for a runner. Image copyright Gustav Morin/Ericsson Racing Team/Volvo Ocean Race.

Ball No. 2 represents the members of the Nordic crew who are some 800 miles away in Qingdao, including Mason and navigator Aksel Magdahl. They’re preparing sails, food and equipment for Leg 5, which can’t be loaded until the boat reaches China.

Ball No. 3 includes the dreaded “things out of our control” list, things like the weather and shipping companies.

“There has been this fantastic logistical push to get the boat ready,” said Mason. “The spare panel was made in Italy, but it missed the flight connection in Rotterdam, which added another 20 hours to our timeline. It arrived at the yard this morning at 0500h and is now in a controlled environment where we have the tools and the people in place to make it happen.

“There is another one of these famous pushes coming through, which means it is going to blow like crazy,” Mason continued. “Before that the weather window looks quite favorable, so the guys are under additional pressure to get the repair done. There are a lot of variables and we need a lot of good luck, but until we get to a point where it is not possible, we are going to continue to try and get there and get back in the race.”

Ben Wright and Andy Lowe moving spare parts for the new piece. Image copyright Gustav Morin/Ericsson Racing Team/Volvo Ocean Race.

In order to complete Leg 4 and receive the 4 points available for placing fifth, the Nordic crew must return to the waypoint approximately 60 nautical miles north of Taiwan where it suspended racing on Jan. 27. Ericsson 3 cannot add any new gear for the completion of the leg, which means the crew will have to perform a quick touch-and-go in Qingdao to load the sails, food and gear necessary for the lengthy Leg 5, which totals 12,500 nautical miles and could last 35 to 40 days.

“The race is far from over,” said helmsman Thomas Johansson. “Even if we don’t get to the start line in time, the points that we will make on the way to Rio are important. So all we can do now is try our hardest to get the boat ready and fight on. Even after Rio there are plenty of points up for grab. We need to get some positive energy and move forward and fight on. We are very thankful to the shore and boatbuilding crews, who have done an incredible job to get us to where we are now.”

Ericsson Racing Team

Volvo Ocean Race

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