Tuesday, 31 March 2009

VOR: Durable Goods

Ericsson 3 and Ericsson 4 get a full going over by the shore team after a 12,300 mile leg. Image copyright Dave Kneale/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Riath Al-Samarrai

Their sailors may have endured the challenge of a lifetime getting to Rio de Janeiro, but Ericsson Racing Team's shore crew are having an easier time patching up their two boats.

Herve LeQuillec, the team's shore manager, confirmed both yachts escaped unscathed of major damage, leaving his staff to attack the extensive 'routine maintenance' required of these boats.

"It's a long list of jobs, but you would expect that at the end of a 12,000-mile leg," he said. "The job really is to check everything and make sure it is okay.

"There are no major problems."

Both yachts have already undergone ultrasound testing on their key components, while leg winner Ericsson 3 on Sunday was successfully re-measured to ensure she is within the required 13,860-14,000-kilogram weight bracket after extensive repairs were made in Taiwan.

Ericsson 3, skippered by Magnus Olsson (SWE) finish first into Rio de Janeiro on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, crossing the line at 10:37:57 GMT 26/03/09, after 41 days at sea. Image copyright Dave Kneale/Volvo Ocean Race.

"Everything is fine," he said. "We have a lot to do as there are lots of small things that have broken, but there's nothing that really concerns us. We expected the boats to arrive in good condition because they won the first and second place. If they had big problems, they would not have been at the front.

"We still check everything, though. We have looked over both boats; the keels, the rudders, daggerboards, the hulls. There are no big concerns."

During the leg, Ericsson 4 reported a hydraulic leak from their keel, a problem LeQuillec and his team will tackle by replacing the keel rams with an alternate set that gets used every other leg. "We have two sets of rams that we rotate. We just got the rams that were sent from China and this set will be re-fitted in Boston. We service the rams every second leg because these rams are used extensively."

Torben Grael's boat also endured issues with its steering cables, which will be changed. The Nordic crew publicly only reported damage to some sails, their diesel tanks and also a bunk, but LeQuillec expects their boat to be back on the water by Wednesday afternoon, a day ahead of Ericsson 4's scheduled return.

Ericsson 4, skippered by Torben Grael (BRA) finish second into Rio de Janeiro on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, crossing the line at 22:57:44 GMT 26/03/09. Image copyright Dave Kneale/Volvo Ocean Race.

Despite the absence of any major problems, LeQuillec admitted some small items would not be addressed because of a compressed schedule.

"The in-port race is on Saturday and that makes time tight," he said. "The boats were a bit later than the ETA, which cut the maintenance programme a little bit. It means we will not be able to complete some of the small jobs.

"We will have to work hard to get as much done as we can, but we have no big concerns to worry about because the boats are in good shape."

The durability of Ericsson 4 continues to be a talking point as the boat has so far survived without major damage. LeQuillec attributed this to the team's thorough preparation in Lanzarote.

"We spent one year in Lanzarote and we really used this year to prepare," he said. "We were training in the trade winds: we had 15-20 knots and we were in the Atlantic Ocean sailing in open waters. For sure this helps. For this particular leg, what helps is the work in this kind of weather, seeing how it affects the rig, the sails. The crew, the weather team, the navigation. Everything was improved in that time. We had time to work on all the components.

"We used the time as much as we could and it is paying off now."

Volvo Ocean Race

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