It has been another night of hell for the Volvo Ocean Race, racing towards the finish of leg four in Qingdao. Conditions worsened for the fleet over night, when they were midway between the northeastern tip of Taiwan and Qingdao, in the East China Sea.
Ericsson 3 did not survive the storm in tact, which was, according to Bouwe BEKKING
(NED), skipper of Telefónica Blue, who is still clinging onto the lead, worse than the storm of two days ago.
During the night, the wind suddenly increased from 10-knots to 40-knots and the sea state quickly deteriorated. Onboard Ericsson 3, the team had managed to find a good balance between pushing the boat hard, but not too hard, and were holding on to a comfortable second place after sailing a terrific leg.
All hands were called to drop the mainsail quickly as the wind speed rapidly accelerated. According to Media Crew Member Gustav MORIN (SWE), the boat was almost airborne at times and was slamming hard and rocking uncontrollably. The mainsail was ripped to pieces as the crew tried to slow the boat to keep it in one piece. But it was too late.
The bow compartment filled with water and, soon after that, a four-metre crack and an open hole in the hull appeared. "We were very close to sinking,"
said skipper Magnus OLSSON (SWE).
"The water was pouring in from the hole and the bow section was delaminating,"
said MORIN. The crew baled and pumped the water out and then cut up the bunks to strengthen the hull. They were approximately 60 nautical miles northeast of Taiwan and they turned the boat immediately and headed downwind towards the island. The crew prepared for the worst, dressed in their survival suits and made the safety equipment ready on deck.
"You should have been quicker with the camera,"
navigator Aksel MAGDAHL (NOR) said to MORIN. "It's not every year that tears are dropping down my cheeks. This is so disappointing."
"I am very, very disappointed, especially for the crew. The crew has been so wonderful, and to sail with them has been so much fun from the very beginning,"
said OLSSON as he steered the boat towards Keelung City, a major port situated in the northeastern part of Taiwan. The team was met by a pilot boat and escorted safely into harbour. They have officially suspended racing.
Six shore crew and boat builders are now on their way to Keelung, where the boat will be hauled out of the water tomorrow at noon and the full extent of the damage will be assessed.
Meanwhile, still out on the racetrack and heading the field is Telefónica Blue, and skipper BEKKING is doing his best to put theory into practise and keep Telefónica Blue between his opponents and the finish in Qingdao, just 477nm away.
"We have to sail really, really slow, so we don't break the boat. Miles and position have become secondary, unfortunately,"
BEKKING said. The crew is all wearing double safety harnesses, and BEKKING is bracing himself in the navigation station, trying to take care of his damaged back.
With the suspension of Ericsson 3, Ericsson 4 has now upgraded to second place and is challenging Telefónica Blue for the lead from just 26 miles behind, although it has no
t been all plain sailing. The team has been hampered by not being able to fly a storm jib, and has had to sail under a heavily reefed mainsail only, due to the pad eye from the tack of the storm jib ripping out of the deck.
"When was the last time you had to use a storm jib for real?" Ken READ (USA), skipper of PUMA, now in third place, asked his crew, whose boom broke during the first storm. "Did anyone ever have to use a storm jib on three separate times in a leg or race?" was the next question. The answer was a resolute 'No'. This is a first for everybody.
Leg Four Day 10: 13:00 UTC Volvo Ocean Race Positions
(boat name/country/skipper/nationality/distance to finish)
1. Telefónica Blue ESP, Bouwe BEKKING (NED) DTF 477 nm
2. Ericsson 4 SWE, Torben GRAEL (BRA) +26
3. PUMA Racing Team USA, Ken READ (USA) +46
4. Delta Lloyd IRL, Roberto BERMUDEZ (ESP) +215
5. Green Dragon IRL/CHN, Ian WALKER (GBR) +275
Ericsson 3 SWE, Magnus OLSSON (SWE) SUS
Telefónica Black ESP, Fernando ECHAVARRI (ESP) DNF
Team Russia RUS, Andreas HANAKAMP (AUT) DNS
Volvo Ocean Race Leaderboard
(After Singapore In-Port Race)
1. Ericsson 4, skipper Torben GRAEL (BRA), 39 points
2.Telefónica Blue, skipper Bouwe BEKKING (NED), 33.5 points
3. PUMA, skipper Ken READ (USA), 31 points
4. Ericsson 3, skipper Magnus OLSSON (SWE), 24 points
5. Green Dragon, skipper Ian WALKER (GBR), 22.5 points
6. Telefónica Black, skipper Fernando ECHAVARRI (ESP), 19 points
7. Team Russia, skipper Andreas HANAKAMP (AUT), 10.5 points
8. Delta Lloyd, skipper Roberto BERMUDEZ (ESP), 10 points
Go here for all the news on the Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09
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