A hive of activity in Melbourne as VOR crews prepare for next weekend's racing 30/1/06

With just six days until the Melbourne In-Port Race most of the VOR crews are back from thier breaks and will shortly be on the water again to commence training. After the weekend, ABN Amro 2 was the first boat back in the water.

Team Ericsson also hope to be back on the water as early as possible this week once all the jobs are completed. Ericsson arrived aboard cargo ship at the Volvo Ocean Race village at Melbourne Docklands early Friday afternoon. Having pulled out of the race nearly three weeks ago after damaging the hydraulic rams of her keel just off Cape Town, Ericsson was ferried into Port Melbourne on a Wallenius Willhelmsen cargo ship in the early hours of Friday morning.

Skipper Neal McDonald explained the activity as Ericsson was placed in her cradle beside the race village. “Everything now has to be taken off the boat – the sails, the mast etc. All the boats have to be reweighed during the stopover. On top of this, every component needs to be checked as is necessary during every stopover, from the mast to the keel and every single rope and shackle.

“The Melbourne stopover will be like all the others, but with compressed time. The advantage we have is that the boat has only been sailed two days so she is in good shape, and we know that she is fast as we were second when we had to retire from leg two. Once we have made the necessary repairs we will need to put the kit back together and we hope to get her back in the water early this week.”

The damaged/dismasted VO70 Brasil 1 finally arrived in Fremantle on Thursday before being loaded on to a lorry bound for Melbourne. Brasil 1 which lost her mast 1,300 miles from Eclipse Island and took a week, under jury rig to reach Fremantle, begun her 2,500-mile road trip and race against time on Friday. The journey across Australia will take approximately five days. And according to Team Brasil the driving during this mammoth trip is being restricted to 12 hours and 30 minutes break every four hours. They will have a police escort to the front and rear. They are now halfway across.

Bouwe Bekking and his movistar team are in the process of replacing the damaged hydraulic rams of the keel. Movistar encountered continuous keel ram problems throughout the second leg from Cape Town which has forced the team to take serious action. Bekking chatting about the problem said: “This is a drastic decision but we haven’t doubt about this is the right one. We are not going to use the titanium rams and we will recover the stainless rams used during the training done before the start in Vigo; these stainless rams didn’t give us problems during the 20,000 nautical miles sailed. We can go harder without getting worried about the reliability.”

The VOR yacht Brunel is now out of the water and a brand new keel – 5500 kg lead torpedo – is going to replace the existing one. The boat will be back in the water on Wednesday. According to Grant Wharington the new keel bulb has a significantly different shape than the old one and “It will definitely make a difference.”

Following improvements and modifications Brunel will be transported to Baltimore, missing out the Southern Ocean leg see previous story here . Hopefully she should arrive by 20 April just in time for the In Port race on 29 April. One week later the fleet will depart for Europe.

Current Leaderboard

1. ABN Amro One, Mike Sanderson (NZL) 29 pts

2. ABN Amro Two, Sebastien Josse (FRA) 24 pts

3. movistar, Bouwe Bekking (NED) 15.5 pts

4. Brasil 1, Torben Grael (BRA) 14.5 pts

5. Pirates of the Caribbean, Paul Cayard (USA) 13.5 pts

6. Ericsson Racing Team, Neal McDonald (GBR) 12.5 pts

7. Brunel, Grant Wharington (AUS) 11 pts