Ericsson is now sailing towards Port Elizabeth where she will be shipped to Melbourne

At 1200 GMT Thursday morning, the Ericsson Racing Team arrived safely into Mossel Bay, South Africa, just three days into leg two of the Volvo Ocean Race. Ericsson experienced a failure to her hydraulic keel movement system, and was forced to head into port to repair the damage. A short term replacement has been installed, but the team is currently looking at the option of shipping the boat to Melbourne to be ready for the inshore race and the start of leg three.

After twelve hours of hard but efficient team work, Ericsson is now back at sea. The boat left Mossel Bay at 1500 GMT (Thursday), and is now sailing towards Port Elizabeth in heavy winds. The plan is to ship the boat to Melbourne, and the shore crew is working hard at securing the shipment.

The last 12 hours have been hectic for the shore crew to say the least. Jason Carrington, construction manager and crew member on board Ericsson, comments on the recent events: “Three days into the leg, as we were beating into 25 knots of wind, one of the piston rods which cants the keel sheared off. So from this moment, we were relying on just one cylinder and loosing pressure. Clearly our only option was to head back to port.

“The shore team arrived quickly, and we all immediately started working hard, hoping to carry on sailing into leg 2. We removed the broken titanium ram, and swapped it for a spare stainless steel ram. But we soon realized that this would only be a short term solution, as the spare ram has a different set up to that which we had in place.”

Ericsson skipper Neal McDonald commented: “It is clearly disappointing. We experienced a failure to our keel movement system during the first leg. We dealt with the problem as well as we could, and worked on it during the whole stopover in Cape Town. We really thought that this problem was over, and that we could now sail confidently towards Melbourne. So of course, everyone is disappointed.

“We will now clearly have to think of this race as a whole, and focus on the long term objective. This is why we have decided to ship Ericsson to Melbourne, where we can try to work out a solution that we are all confident with.”

A lot of research is currently being done in order to further develop and strengthen the hydraulic keel movement system. The team is in close discussion with his designers at Farr Yacht Design, together with engineering consultants Semcon. Greg Waters, a hydraulic expert based in Australia, has also been consulted and has brought valuable help to the team.

Quotes from the boat
Neal McDonald: “The system does work with one ram, but you have to ask yourself: if one ram broke, then why shouldn’t the other one break when you are putting twice as much load on it. It is unbelievable when you think that this part was designed to support efforts in excess of 100 tons. The only right decision was to get back to shore.”

Tom Braidwood: “The boys put a reef in and then we heard a decent “bang”. We all thought it was a winch or something. But then Neal came out through the hatch and said: “Put the sails down boys, we are going home”.
We had a win in the first inshore race, and even though we didn’t have such a good race in the second one, we are certainly not out of the race. We have to get to Melbourne and start all over again. That’s all you can do: get over the disillusion and look for the positive. Everyone has got total confidence in Neal and we all respect his decision.

Jason Carrington: “We are pretty down. We had a different problem in the last leg, but in the same area of the keel movement system. The boat is perfect; she was going fast and I am very disappointed with these ram problems. It is hard for everyone but you have to soldier on.”