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Volvo Ocean Race - Wipeout, bruises and bumps

by Event Media on 8 Jun 2009
Ericsson 4 surfing at 30 knots off the Blasket Islands West of Ireland, shortly after the start of leg 8 from Galway to Marstrand. Rick Tomlinson/Volvo Ocean Race http://www.volvooceanrace.com

Leg eight of the Volvo Ocean Race – the first of three legs, which takes the seven-strong fleet to the finish in St Petersburg, Russia, later this month, has started with a bang.

Almost literally in Ericsson 4’s case.

In approximately 38 knots of wind yesterday, it became necessary to gybe - not the easiest of manoeuvres in these highly-strung racing yachts at the best of times, but in a strong breeze, it can become more than exciting.

It was a highlight for the Green Dragon team, who led the fleet round the Fastnet Rock late last night. They timed and executed their gybe perfectly whilst flying thief masthead spinnaker. They made the whole manoeuvre look easy, in spite of forgetting to swing the keel. PUMA and Ericsson 4, both of whom were right alongside at the time, did not fare quite so well.

A 38-knot squall hit Puma just as they needed to gybe.

'Along with a big shift, we decided to drop the kite and gybe to the jib, and jib reach for a bit until the squall passed. Good plan, bad execution,' said skipper Kenny Read. 'Full gear up in 38.7 knots of wind is pretty touch and go. Just getting the kite down is touch and go, especially when it pops up and over the top of the mainsail and jams in the sheave,' Read said, adding, 'Last time I saw Ericsson 4, they were laying on their side and blowing out to sea.'

'We should have been smarter and sailed a little more conservatively, but it’s hard when you are charging along right next to first place,' explained Ericsson 4’s MCM Guy Salter, who described Ericsson 4’s events.

'We made a very big school-boy error and were caught in a huge gust. The boat seemed to accelerate in no time and before we knew it, we had ploughed into the back of the next wave and had white water everywhere.

'This sudden stop also sent us into a spin and we ended up on our side with the kite flapping. We had broken our leeward steering wheel and its cage. Luckily the spinnaker was still intact and all of us were still attached to yacht – just – but with a few extra bumps and bruises.'

'We brushed ourselves down and got read after the wipe out. We went into the gybe, and I must say these boats are hard to manoeuvre at the best of times, but in 30 knots of wind, the inevitable happened and we spun out on the gybe.'
The team carried on as if nothing had happened. Skipper Torben Grael steered from the leeward side while the broken wheel was removed and the emergency tiller put in place. The boat was also taking on a fair amount of water and on inspection, it was discovered that there is a relatively large area of delamination between the hull and the deck on the after starboard quarter of the boat.

The team is happy that it is not structural and has set up regular bailing timetable, but it does mean more work for the crew once they reach the pit-stop in Marstrand, where assistance by their shore crew is against the rules.
Overnight, the fleet has made very quick progress across the Celtic Sea, round the famous Fastnet Rock off south west Ireland, through the Western Approaches, leaving the Scilly Isles to starboard (only Green Dragon and Telefónica Black went to the south), past the Lizard Point and up into the English Channel.

The fleet left Galway yesterday after what has been a most memorable stopover and ventured out into the teeth of a gale. The downwind start gave the hoards of spectators a real chance to see the Volvo Open 70s performing at their best. Guy Salter, MCM on Ericsson 4 suggested that the fleet burned around Galway Bay like a bunch of delinquents in a stolen car (not that he condones that sort of behaviour!).

At 1300 GMT today the fleet was 21 nm off the coast of Devon. Telefónica Blue was in the lead, just a mile ahead of Ericsson 3 and Ericsson 4; however, the whole fleet was only divided by seven miles from Telefónica Blue in the lead, to her sistership Telefónica Black at the back of the fleet. After a wet overnight ride, the breeze has dropped to around 10 knots and the crews are able to catch up on some rest.


Fastnet Rock Rounding Order
1. Green Dragon 22:46:34 GMT
2. PUMA 22:51:51 GMT
3. Telefonica Blue 22:53:15 GMT
4. Ericsson 4 22:55:20 GMT
5. Ericsson 3 22:56:23 GMT
6. Delta Lloyd 23:14:15 GMT
7. Telefonica Black 23:23:50 GMT

ERICSSON 4 LEG EIGHT DAY 2 QFB: received 07.06.09 1226 GMT

Our first 24hrs onboard Ericsson 4 has nearly been as memorable as the fantastic stopover in Galway. I don’t think any of us onboard will forget the welcome, the kindness of the locals or the send off from the Emerald Isle.

It was great to have a downwind start yesterday - the good breeze made it fun for us and we hope that all the spectators enjoyed watching us burn around Galway Bay like a bunch of delinquents in a stolen car in a supermarket car park - not that I condone that sort of behaviour.

It didn’t take us long to leave the bay and fly down the west coast - or the 'wild west' as I will refer to it now. It took much less time to sail down the coast than it had done on my drive down sightseeing just the day before. But I am always wary of a coast line that has a distinct absence of trees!

The fleet was nice and close and it became quite clear just how hard fought and close this 'first of three' sprint legs is going to be. Problems came early on Ericsson 4 as the breeze began to build.

We were running hard in 25kts of wind with as much rag up as we could possibly carry when we noticed that we were taking on a fair amount of water in our aft compartment. After some close scrutinizing by Dave Endean and Phil Jameson, it was discovered that we have a relatively large area of de-lamination between the hull and the deck on the aft starboard quarter of the boat.

Dave was happy that it was not structural and so a regular bailing timetable was set up. I must stress that the leak, although fast was nowhere near as bad as the amount of ingress we had on leg one during the record run - see chapter one of Spanish Castle to White Night [the official book of the Volvo Ocean Race 2006-06 published in October].

So already the job list was bigger than we wanted for our pit-stop in Marstrand where we have to do all work ourselves while the shore team look on with beer in hand offering very (un) constructive advice - no doubt!

Around this time, as the lines of cloud came rolling in, we noticed a water spout starting to form. These aquatic tornados are seriously bad news but luckily it did not touch down and it dissipated before our eyes.

With these squally clouds came big gusts - we reefed but kept the masthead spinnaker up. We wanted to gybe as Green Dragon and PUMA had done so moments before.

We should have been smarter and sailed a little more conservatively, but it’s hard when you are charging along right next to first place.

The slight glitch in our game plan ended up costing us. We made a very big school-boy error and were caught in a huge gust. The boat just seemed to accelerate in no time. Before the gust we were flying at 26kts - who knows what we got up to as there was so much spray around us and before we knew it we ploughed into the back of the next wave and had white water everywhere.

This sudden stop sent us into a spin and we ended up on our side with the kite flapping.

After what seemed like an age, we got back on our feet again and charged on. The cost? We had broken our leeward steering wheel and its cage. Luckily the spinnaker was still intact and all of us were still attached to the yacht - just - but with a few extra bumps and bruises.

We still needed to gybe - so we brushed ourselves down and got ready after the wipe out. We went into the gybe, and I must say these boats are hard to manoeuvre at the best of times, but in 30kts of wind the inevitable happened and we spun out of the gybe.

We quickly regained composure and we

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