British sailors Neal McDonald and Steve Hayles join the Ericsson Racing Team for VOR

As announced at a press conference in London earlier today see previous news story here , two British sailors will join the Ericsson Racing Team – the sole Swedish entry in Volvo Ocean Race. Neal McDonald (41) will take the position as skipper and Steve Hayles (32) navigator. The remaining crew has yet to be announced.

With just over five months until the start of the race (12 November) and with a boat still under construction (and not likely to be ready until the end of June) it’s not surprising that the Ericsson Racing Team has a few concerns right now. Speaking to McDonald about the lack of time issue it’s clear this is a major concern but he was keen to point out that they intend to make the most of the time they have available, commenting: “If we don’t use the time efficiently we will have a disadvantage.

“Any boat that’s on the water at the moment is clearly a big threat. I’ve spent a lot of time looking at other teams and the crew they have, seeing where I think they are going to be strong, where I think they are going to be slightly weaker, and certainly the teams that are already on the water are incredibly strong, and they are going to have more time on the water. So without us doing efficient training, they are going to start off with an advantage.

“One area that I feel we are going to be reasonably strong in is the fact that we’re not just sitting around waiting for the boat to be built and launched, we’ve actually spent an awful lot of time looking at areas where we think there are potential advantages and disadvantages and hope we will be very good at making them work for us.”

If all goes to plan and the boat is on the water by the end of June this leaves just four months for the team to prepare and get used to the boat in time for the 12 November start in Vigo, Spain. McDonald continued: “Although I’ve never sailed the new design Volvo, and it will be different, I have no doubt – with the strong team I have – that the transition from the VO60 will be fairly straightforward. Would I select a different team for a different boat? The answer would be no. I know my team and I feel we are going to be very strong in that area. If I had to leave for the start of the race tomorrow, I know I could pick up the phone and have 10 guys ready to go who would be as good as all the other teams put together.”

A look at the construction of the boat shows that like the other teams Ericsson Racing’s priority is to create a light, stiff boat and to develop a canting keel that’s robust and as light as possible too. “We’ve put a lot of effort in to making the system lighter and it’s an area we’re constantly looking at,” says McDonald. “Getting this right will provide massive gains in performance.”

Jason Carrington, the team’s build manager, says although they have tweaked the boat during construction the designs of all the new Farr boats are actually fairly similar. “Telefonica is slightly different, but again just small refinements that they believe in. There are quite a few opportunities to tweak things during the build. It’s built basically to the drawing. We’re [all the teams] trying to build the lightest, strongest boat so there’s not only the race, but the race to see which team builds the lightest boat. And with the canting keel it’s a whole lot more important.”