Sir Robin Knox-Johnston chairman of Clipper Ventures with the latest Clipper fleet news 1/3/06

We now have eight boats out of the water and the last two will come out first thing this morning (Wednesday). The moment they are out, and their keels have been removed, they are put into a special cradle and work starts to pull off the laminate which is in the way of the keel. Work has been continuing into the night in Subic, with welders working on the cradles under floodlights in the yard.

We now know that the problem experienced has evolved due to the connection point between the solid laminate above the keel and the foam sandwich of the rest of the hull being too abrupt instead of tapering as it should have done. The result of this was that any flexing in this area (and there is always some flexing in a hull), started to damage the foam in the sandwich and, as this disintegrated it created looseness, which made the problem worse. The remedial work involves extending the solid laminate outwards to the fore and aft stringers and thus creating a large ‘U’ structure inside the boat of solid laminate to take, and spread, the weight of the keel.

We currently await the repair materials, which are in flight from New Zealand, amounting to 2.5 tons of glass and resin. Once this arrives remedial work commences and is described by the experts as ‘not too difficult’.

Once the materials have arrived we would hope to gain a much better understanding of exactly how long it will take to complete the work on the whole fleet, put back the keels in each hull, re-fit onboard furniture, tanks, engines and batteries. The boats will then be re-launched, re-rigged, tuned and are ready to sail.

Crew will be asked to return once the interior has been cleaned up and the boats are afloat. There then will be a couple of days of trials before the race re-starts to Qingdao. The new race programme will be issued once we have a definite start date, hopefully next week. We will only issue a restart date when we know we can definitely meet it, hence our preference of waiting until we have realistic information to work on.