The ground teams have packed up their laptop computers, and are headed to the airport to meet Earthrace in Hawaii. Meanwhile Earthrace continues to lumber across the Pacific Ocean at 18 knots. I always liked driving Earthrace at 18 knots. The fuel efficiency curve is good and the boat feels like she could run that speed forever.
For skipper Pete Bethune 18 knots is just over the 16 knots Cable and Wireless drove through the water. This means though that while Earthrace is slowly building miles on the Cable and Wireless record, she is basically just maintaining her lead.
The following two race stops also have long ocean runs between ports. For Earthrace this means crossing 8000 miles of ocean at the respectable rate of 18 knots. This must seem slow after racing up the Mexican coast at over 22 knots.
The crew reports a recurring problem of the fuel tank top access ports leaking allowing bilge water to enter the fuel system. On Earthrace the 13,000 liter fuel tanks are built into the hull. The top of the fuel tank becomes the bilge.
When Earthrace pushed into a head sea a slight vacuum is formed inside the cabin that sucks seawater spray into the back door that slowly fills the bilge. This sloshing water sometimes finds it's way into the fuel tanks and can cause breakdowns in our new Cummins engines.
For this reason we lock down the back door like a submarine soon as the weather begins to build. Locking down the aft door makes Earthrace feel like a small-enclosed submarine with no air circulation. The temperature and humidity inside the cabin can become unbearable at times.
'Earthrace is not a boat for claustrophobics' I heard many times during the last race.
This time the water entering the fuel was not from sea spray as Earthrace has very gentle conditions and the hatches can be left open. No, the water came from forgetting to empty the sink drain bucket. Earthrace is very basic inside and the one small sink is fed by a jerry can and drains into a bucket on the floor. That floor bucket overflowed and the slop found it's way into the fuel. Luckily Skipper Pete Bethune saw the water level in the filters rising and found the source of the leak.