Ecover 3 reaches Auckland

Blistering schedule for Mike Golding's shore team to get their new steed ready for shipping (now with photos...)

Tuesday July 31st 2007, Author: James Boyd, Location: Australasia
Mike Golding's new Owen Clarke designed Open 60 yacht Ecover 3 completed her first gruelling trip slightly ahead of schedule early this morning.

The 681km passage by road from Wellington to Auckland would usually take about nine hours by car at a safe driving speed, but on Sunday evening (local time) the exceptional cargo left Wellington's Hakes Marine - where the boat was freshly completed - and only arrived at the City of Sails' famous Viaduct Basin in the early hours of this (Tuesday) morning.

With three support vehicles clearing a safe passage in front of the boat as it made its way up the road, progress was slow, but the brand new Open 60 - which took the best part of six months to build - arrived safely at the former base of America's Cup winners Alinghi this morning. Here Ecover 3 will be united for the first time with her mast, built by Southern Spars, before the boat is launched for the first time later today or first thing tomorrow morning.

Delays to the demanding build schedule, caused mainly by some late detail changes, mean that the boat now has a very tight schedule this week before shipping to Europe on Sunday. And so a three week time slot, during which preliminary sea-trials should have taken place, has been cut short. The Ecover team now need to complete rigging the boat and a crucial 180 degree self-righting inversion test before Ecover 3 goes on the ship on Sunday.

The boat should undergo the statutory 180 degree inversion test Wednesday. It must be turned over by a crane with the crew inside. Then without any outside assistance they must right the boat using only the swinging keel system. "It a very scary test," warns Golding. "If things go wrong - it would not be just a little wrong!"

On  Wednesday afternoon the mast and rigging will be stepped for the first time. 
On Thursday if the weather is perfect, the Ecover team may attempt the second test stipulated by the race and class rules- a 90 degree test in which they measure the upward load on the masthead with the boat pulled over at 90 degrees.

On Friday the boat must be lifted out again, disassembled and packed up for shipping. On Saturday the container and boat and mast will be finally packed for movement to the dock in three loads first thing on Sunday,

"It is great to see the boat here," said Golding in Auckland. "I am hoping that working at the Alinghi base will be a good omen. But after all the work and stress over the last month it is great to see the boat in the flesh, it looks fantastic here, and you start to appreciate what we have. It looks like we have a great boat. In the greater scheme of things a month is nothing to worry about. My eyes are very much on the big prize and I'll just do the best that I can with the Transat Jacques Vabre. It will be very intensive next year."

Last week the new Open 60's construction was completed at Hakes Marine in Wellington. The yard was chosen by Golding, for its experience building the 2006 MedCup winning Transpac 52 Mean Machine, and previous the maxi Konica Minolta, and their work on several America's Cup yachts, all the culmination of owner Paul Hakes long years of race boat building, previously with Mick Cookson.

"The level of detail we had to take to the finishing of the boat, and that is not only the cosmetic level -  which is in itself is quite extraordinary for a race yacht - but also in terms of making sure everything is going to be 100% robust and making sure it is 100% reliable," commented Paul Hakes of Hakes Marine. "Which means no misalignment of any blocks, every hole has to be perfect so that we know it is not going to leak and we know that it is going to last forever. This a little bit different from your average race boat where the crew push you to keep things light, knowing they are going to replace things after a year.

"The other thing that has been quite different for me is that Mike has accumulated from his previous boats and his experience, a wish list. And that wish list is very long and they are all on this boat. All those years of experience have culminated in this boat."

The first competitive race for the new boat will be the Transat Jacques Vabre from Le Havre, France to Brazil in early November, but prior to that Golding must complete a 1000 miles qualifying passage.

The ultimate goal, for which the new boat was built, is the 24,000 miles solo round the world race, the Vendee Globe, which starts November 2008.

More photos on the following pages...

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