350 Miles Southeast of Eclipse Island

Position: 37,28.13S , 120,47.42E

Speed: 14 knots, Course: 124 deg.

The black Pearl is now about 350 miles southeast of Eclipse Island. We have nice 15 knot wind from the southwest, a beautiful moonlit night, and a great forecast for the next three days. This should allow us to make good progress toward Melbourne at minimum stress to the boat and keel. Our current ETA is 1200 UTC Sunday the 22nd.

The repair we made yesterday was to simply lock the keel on the centerline of the yacht. I did not want to wait for our spare hydraulic rams to be flown to Albany and the associated minor modifications that would have been necessary. We would not have been able to leave Albany until Friday if l went well. In the big picture, we need to get the boat to Melbourne where our infrastructure is all set up, hull the boat out, get the keel off and repair the structural damage that we have. The structural damage is the big one in my mind. We don’t know how extensive it is until we get her all opened up. The fact that this keel ram broke is just another detail that we can’t let distract us from the big picture.

Having said that, getting keel rams that we have confidence in, is another issue we are sorting out. Ericsson experienced the same breakdown as we did and they have been working on a solution for 10 days now. Our team is in contact with Ericsson and the manufacturer to find a solution. The rams we have been using are custom designed and built out of titanium. We own a spare set of stock standard, “off the shelf” rams that we could out in. We are investigating if they will provide more reliability. They come at a weight penalty but that is minor compared to not having the keel swing at all.

Today Brasil lost their rig. I feel for Torben and his team. This is a devastating blow to a team that has added so much to the event in the way of a country entering the event for the first time and doing so very competitively. It will now be a long, slow, sail to Australia for a team that already had a bad break on this leg. The information we have on he incident, said that the shroud turnbuckle broke in half. This is a worry as we have he same supplier for our turnbuckles and I believe most of the fleet does too. So this is another important issue to get to the bottom of quickly and make the necessary adjustments before leg 3 starts on February 12th.

We spent lot of the day today plugging leaks. We were taking on a fair amount of water through our keel pins which have gotten loose due to the structural damage we have. Somme how, locking the keel on centerline seems to have exacerbated the situation so there was quite a large volume of water leaking in. Erle Williams made a repair to the front and back keel pin bearings and I was his able assistant cutting 5 mm carbon plate into various sizAes and shapes. I think we need to mount a vice on the boat. Cutting carbon late while standing on it using the raft at a work bench just isn’t the way to get proper boat building done.

Our schedule in Melbourne will be tight, as will that of every team. Our work list is long and some of these items are not 5 minute jobs. We have beefed up our shore team with more people as extensive boat building, and rebuilding, seems to be a feature of this race. We are planning on giving the crew some time to rest as well so it will be scramble to be ready to race the in-port race on the 4th.

Pirates’ partner, Pescanova, is organizing another great event here in Australia for children from the Melbourne area on February 6th. The events in Vigo and Cape Town have been great and I think Melbourne will be even better as the dedicated team is building on the experience of the previous events. Later on the 6th we will also be taking Disney Australia out for a ride on the Black Pearl so they can get a sense of what it is like to sail onboard a VOR 70.

This leg seems very long. When I think back to the first night when we broke the radar bracket off the mast, and the repair of it the next day, it seems like it was a year ago. I think it is that we have had so many things happen in the two weeks. As you can imagine, we are looking forward to getting to Melbourne.