The appointment came at the finish of Ellen's solo round the world record attempt in February when she set a new record of 71 days, 14 hours, 18 minutes and 33 seconds.
Since the 75-foot trimaran, B&Q, returned to Lorient, France at the beginning of March, the trimaran has undergone a comprehensive seven-week check and refit. The six-man shore team headed up by Project Manager, Oli ALLARD, have been working flat out to get B&Q back in the water for her first boat testing period since the finish of the record attempt: 'The refit has gone really well - there were not too many unwelcome surprises and the repairs and improvements have gone to plan so Ellen can go back out racing again very soon,' said ALLARD yesterday.
The refit focussed on the key areas of overall boat structure, mast and rigging, sails, deck gear and electronics as well as many other miscellaneous jobs involved with any boat refit. 'The overall structure of the boat was good considering she has over 48,000 miles on the clock already only 15 months on from her launch in January 2004. We have had to work on the back of the boat following the movement of the starboard cassette rudder box which we have hopefully eradicated by increasing the size of the 'shims' [think doorstop wedges!],' said ALLARD. He continued: 'The deck gear was as we expected after that kind of mileage and this has now all been repaired or replaced as required and all the winches serviced. But the main area of work came with the mast and, more importantly, the ball at the base of the mast and the supporting cup it sits in [the entire mast sits on this small ball approximately 80 mm in diameter, up to 60 tons of load]. We discovered a 4mm crack in the supporting cup and with the advice of our engineers at HDS have replaced the ball and cup and reinforced that area.'
The full sail inventory has undergone a refurbishment at North Sails in Vannes, France and Future Fibres have replaced 99% of the rigging and all the rigging pins.
'We had our first sail yesterday in around 15 knot medium conditions so pretty good for what we wanted to do. We completed the rig tuning and set up so we are happy with that. Now we are waiting for Ellen to arrive back in Lorient at the end of the week so we can complete our boat testing programme,' concluded ALLARD.
Ellen had some well-earned down time over March returning to work in April and a whirlwind tour of Lorient, France, Geneva, Switzerland, Dublin, Ireland and Cowes, Derby and London, Great Britain, to undertake a round of boat, sponsor and media commitments. Ellen will rejoin the team in Lorient by the end of the week to complete the final boat testing programme.
A series of short 'standby' periods have been allocated in May and June to allow Ellen and the team to complete two to three smaller record attempts subject to the weather conditions. The first will be a crewed record attempt between St. Malo, France and St. Nazaire, France and could happen next week in the first standby period between 1-10 May. The Record SNSM is a 284 miles race, passing the coasts of Loire Atlantique in Pays de Loire then the coasts of Brittany. This course highlights the 56 SNSM stations between St. Nazaire and St. Malo. The Socient Nationale de Sauvetage en Mer (SNSM) is the equivalent of the RNLI in Great Britain, and just like the RNLI is funded solely by public donations.
Only last week three of the ORMA multihulls skippered by Thomas COVILLE (FRA), Sodebo, Michel DESJOYEUX, Geant and Thierry Dupré, Gitana X set out on 19 April to establish the record. Both Gitana X and Geant were forced to abandon only a few hours into the record attempt due to gear failure but COVILLE went on to cross the finish line off St. Malo at 17 hours, 54 minutes and 4 seconds on Wednesday 20 April setting a new first record of 1 day, 1 hour, 37 minutes and 17 seconds at an average speed of 11.04 knots.
'It's not an easy record because we start and finish in very different regions - starting in south Brittany and then finishing in northern Brittany so the wind will be very different at the start and at the finish. And, of course, there is always the risk of gear failure,' concluded Ellen.
Also during May and June, Ellen and her team may attempt solo and crewed records such as the Cowes-St. Malo and the Round the Island (of Wight).
More details of Ellen's programme for the second half of the year will be announced in the next few weeks.