Mike Golding back up to speed following night of engine trouble aboard Ecover 20/11/06

After an intense weekend of close racing in the 5 Oceans Race, trading miles with Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss, part of Mike Golding is just pleased to be still racing today after a long and anxious night dealing with an engine problem which could at best have required a long and time consuming diversion, or at worst spelled the end of his race.

No engine means no power. No power means no electrics, no keel cant and no autopilots.

A night in the engine bay, while Ecover was surfing along at 18-22 knots, and long, methodical discussions with project manager Gringo Tourell who was helped immeasurably by engine guru John Haskins, allowed them to set up a temporary fix which has allowed the engine to run successfully for two or three hours at a time. And this afternoon Tourell reports that the engine has been running with a normal fuel feed.

A gravity fuel feed was fashioned, feeding diesel direct from a manually fed drinking water bottle sited beside the chart table. Topping this up regularly proved time consuming, each bottle lasting between 15 and 20 minutes, but the system did allow Golding to make the decision to turn right, deeper into the wastes of the Southern Ocean, rather than make a left turn towards Cape Town.

Tourell explained the situation earlier this afternoon: “At the moment it may require regular maintenance but I am confident it will work. Now that may be ten times and hour, once an hour or once every ten hours, we are not quite sure.

“It was a bit of long night and we all needed clear heads. Several times we had to stop and go back and start again. I am pretty sure it is either a problem with a secondary fuel filter, a worn washer or something, or a problem with the bleed screw which might be drawing air. John was in his workshop all night looking at different manufacturers diagrams and forums. That’s one of the problems that you can’t just call up the manufacturers late on a Sunday night for help.

Mike seems fairly happy now, mainly because it could have been terminal and so he may have lost a few miles but he is still in the race.”

Chatting to his shore crew earlier today Golding said: “I am just on another limit now. We are just power reaching with lots of water over the boat, accelerating quite hard and lots of leaning over. I am doing about 20 knots, a consistent 20 knots and surfing to 23 knots. It is pretty straightforward and not too hard, not slamming or anything.

“I was quite lucky to be turning right last night and not left. We have a fuel issue. We could not get the engine going at all yesterday, but got it going early this morning with a drinking bottle and replumbed the whole engine and that gave the confidence to turn right. Now I have to reorganise it so that it will work all the way to Fremantle. But the problem with the problem is that we don’t know what the problem is!

“I was racing against the clock yesterday to run the alternator and put some charge in the batteries. With no main engine we would have to stop and we were within a gnat’s cock of having to do that yesterday.”

Meanwhile Mike does appear to be back on the pace, having set the fastest average speed between today’s skeds and taken six miles out of Alex Thomson’s lead since this morning. Mike is now 786 miles behind Bernard Stamm and has taken nearly 100 miles from Stamm since Friday.