Earthrace rumbled into San Diego at 0100 on Friday 16th May and left again at 0900 GMT. She is now heading west at 18 knot with a one-two metre rolling swell under her and a good weather forecast.
Scott Fratcher reports that during the San Diego stopover Chief Engineer Tino de Freitas modified the fuel transfer pump mounting-base in an attempt to solve the mystery of the port gearbox oil loss.
Strangely this fuel transfer pump has been an issue since the commissioning of Earthrace nearly three years ago. The fuel transfer pump is directly coupled to the big ZF gearboxes. With the pump in place the gearbox looses up to two liters of lubricating oil a day. It's unknown to where this oil is going.
During the previous race attempt the search for the oil leak became the constant source of technical discussions. The gearbox oil heat exchanger was changed, and eventually in San Diego the complete gearbox was swapped and still the oil disappeared at the steady rate of two litres a day. Strangely not a drop of oil seems to land under the engine so the team concluded the oil must be entering the fuel system through the fuel transfer pump driven by the gearbox.
This year's race attempt see's brand new engines and gearboxes installed in Earthrace and the exact same two litres a day oil loss is still reported to be occurring. Part of the extended port time in San Diego was de Freitas attempting to modify the pump base to prevent the oil from seeping into the fuel. We are waiting for a report if this latest modification solved the issue.
This is important, as the Earthrace crew will slowly wear down during the grueling 75-day race. On the last race attempt when the crew arrived in Spain some were passing blood due to internal organ bruising while others had lost every last bit of body fat. During a race of such endurance the crew become less effective at repetitive tasks. Missing a day's oil top off can have disastrous consequences.
Earthrace is running a slightly slower pace of 18-20 knots on the San Diego to Hawaii leg. The 2300-mile passage is just at the limit of the Earthrace onboard fuel supply and by slowing down slightly Earthrace will achieve a greater range and less chance of mechanical breakdowns.
The next three race legs should all be light downwind conditions with no pending threat of early hurricanes, as Earthrace will transit the wide Pacific just south of the Hurricane belt.
Looking forward into future race legs the crossing of the Indian Ocean could again become a major hurdle for the Earthrace boat. The intense southwest monsoons that hammered the crew and boat last year caused drive train damage including ripping the starboard engine completely free from her engine mounts.
While there have been cyclones this year, the monsoonal headwinds have not yet set in. It's anyone's guess if they will hold off for just two more weeks allowing Earthrace a smooth Indian Ocean crossing. I am sure this is weighing on Skipper Pete Bethune's mind heavily as he starts the most relaxing section of the race. '
Pete Bethune reported by sat phone than in the last 24 hours Earthrace had motored 359 nautical miles including the stop over and she is still 1152 miles ahead of the Cable & Wireless pace, from her 1998 record of 74 days 23 hours and 53 minutes.
To find our more about Sctoo Fratcher's adventures and his Earthrace books go to www.yachtwork.com
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