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Race Report

Ericsson 4 Leg Eight Day 2

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 were off - in the right direction. With these gusts came a shift and we could see we had lost a lot to the others. I guess that pointing in the wrong direction whilst being pinned on your side isn’t the best VMG (velocity made good).

We carried on as if nothing had happened with Torben driving to leeward and a lack of instruments (which had turned themselves off in all the excitement). The broken wheel was removed, the instrument problem solved and the emergency tiller was brought on 
deck. Stu Bannatyne drove the boat by tiller while the good wheel was brought to the windward side.

So it’s back to normal now - only that poor old Dave has quite a lengthy job list for Marstrand or onboard if he gets the chance.

We are off the coast of Cornwall right now and soon to cross the border into Devon.  I have been along this coast many times but don’t think I have been here from the Fastnet in such quick time - including the record run onboard Leopard 3 in the last Fastnet Race.

The helicopters have been flying around and we have seen several cruising boats sailing west on the tide. It’s a lovely part of the world down here and I think I will come back next month for a few relaxing days with the family.

No real crimes onboard yet - just some very tired lads after a hard-fought night - but I do not see much chance of rest - even at the pit-stop as we have a lot of things to sort out and repair.

Guy Salter - MCM