Mike Golding completes survival training and prepares Ecover for forthcoming Velux 5 Oceans Race 11/10/06

Earlier this week a relaxed Mike Golding was among the other Velux 5 Oceans skippers taking part in the obligatory survival training in the marina in Gexto in preparation for the start of the race in just under two weeks.
As far as preparations to his yachtEcoverare concerned these were completed pretty much before the boat was delivered to Bilbao via La Rochelle, by Mike, Gringo (Graham Tourell) and the team.

Commenting on the preparation of the boat Gringo said: “The delivery proved to be a very good general test with up to 20-25 knots of breeze at times and from all directions so we had a bit of everything. It was a good chance for Mike to just be on the boat and check everything including the new sails under a variety of conditions.”
According to Golding’s new website, Ecover has a number of new sails for this race, complementing the new ones that were added earlier in the summer. A new lightweight Code Zero headsail was added in early summer to fill a known weak spot in the Ecover armoury. This can be used upwind in that critical eight knots of wind speed that proved problematic previously. This sail has already proven its worth in the SNSM Record Race, which Ecover won in the summer, pulling away from Roland Jourdain’s Sill & Véolia in light going.

A new North France mainsail has been built for this race. It has a powerful roach (the back, top section of the sail) which is squared off in a T top to maximise the power high up in the sail and also provide a controllable twist to the leech of the sail. “It’s a real beauty,” is the chorus from Mike and Gringo. The sail is built with offshore weight scrim but does not have a taffeta backing for chafe protection and longevity to save significant weight. The DPI (denier per inch) is the same as the previous main.

She also has a new higher clew genoa, which is better for reaching. It is a bit of a compromise upwind but more than pays for itself reaching. Another new sail in the inventory is a cuben fibre Gennaker, the biggest and lightest Ecover has had. Mike is really pleased with the range and angles this sail can be used at, using it between about 90 and 130 degrees. It is a little flatter than the Code 5 gennaker which means it has the advantage that it can be furled away and kept ‘in the air’ ready for use, a boon when solo sailing. Despite being far lighter the Cuban cloth makes this sail as strong as the code 5s and 3DL sails that Ecover has used up until now.

With this revised sail inventory from long time technical partners North Sails France, Mike will be carrying one less gennaker than before and overall a considerable weight saving has again been realised. It is anticipated that these changes will have improved the overall speed of the boat especially in those areas where previously Ecover has struggled.?
She has also returned to a fabricated keel rather than the forged keel which was the replacement after she broke her keel at the end of the Vendée Globe race . After the Calais Round Britain Race and other races last year it was never felt to be right, or as quick as the fabricated keel. The forged keel shows a four-hour advantage on the velocity predictions over the full Vendee Globe course, so that is a very marginal advantage.
The other speed inducing measure which has been changed is splitting the big, rear water ballast tank in half with a transverse split so that only the forward section of the big tank can now be filled. This has proven significantly quicker in marginal conditions, one of the problems being that you could not only half fill the tank as the water sloshed around the tank and hindered rather than enhanced the trim of the boat. “There was undoubtedly a jump in performance in the 10-15 knot wind range,” Mike concluded.