Most of Team Vestas Wind crew members have been reunited in Bergamo, Italy, at the Persico shipyard where the rebuilt process progresses swiftly and on a very tight schedule to make it possible for the boat to be in Lisbon, ready to join in for the last legs of the Volvo Ocean Race.
The shed at Persico Marine in Bergamo, Italy, is bustling with activity with dozens of people working on the different parts of the re-born Vestas Wind boat and, with most the team now reunited on site, the final works and preparations have even been pushed forward.
With less than one month to go to the Lisbon stopover, the schedule is tighter than ever - another race against time since the blue boat crashed on a coral reef in the Indian Ocean on November 29 during Leg 2.
“We managed to build 70% of the boat in half of the time that would normally be needed.” explained shore manager Neil Cox.
“The hull is totally new, 60% of the internal structures have been replaced, while we managed to keep some 70% of the original deck. The deck was the only part that hasn't been produced here, but at Multipast in France.”
The boat was deconstructed piece by piece before the real re-built process could begin, with the help of a highly specialised team of up to 24 people coming from all over the world, working in shifts.
“It's incredible how much you discover by doing that. It's a really tough and reliable boat.” said Cox, who explained that possibly the hardest part was to adhere to the Volvo Ocean 65's strict one-design rule.
Persico Marine's project manager, Matteo Bisio, confirmed that the one design concept has been key all along the process, with him working in the closest co-operation with class measurer James Dadd and every piece measured, weighed and verified.
Bisio stressed that the rebuilt was “a massive challenge” for the company to accept. “From the very beginning, we believed we could make it or we wouldn't have agreed. We are very proud to have contributed to get Vestas Wind back in the race,” he said.
Now, with the hull and deck joined together, the paint work ready to start, the focus is on the equipment: electronics, engine, hydraulics, deck hardware, everything new or recovered has to be re-mounted on Vestas Wind with the help of the crew members and staff from the different suppliers.
Skipper Chris Nicholson confirmed that what has been done so far represents a huge achievement. “Everyone has done a fantastic job, showed total dedication to the project. I must also thank Persico. I don't think many other shipyards would have accepted to face such a huge challenge,” he said.
The team aims to be ready to leave Italy on time to reach their number one objective: being on the Leg 8 starting line in Lisbon on June 7.
Nicholson knows that his team has been racing a completely different kind of race. “Sure, it's an entirely different spirit, but it's in the Volvo Ocean Race's DNA, adversities are part of this event and of offshore sailing and one has to cope with them.” said Nicholson, who confirmed that the plan is to announce the name of the new navigator during the Newport stopover.
The trip from Northern Italy to Lisbon could take as long as seven days and the possibility of having the boat transported by ferry to Spain is being evaluated.
“The new mast and the bulb will be awaiting for us in Portugal, then we'll have three or four days on the cradle to fit all the remaining parts, do the necessary tests and hopefully be ready for sailing a couple of days before the Lisbon in-port race.” said Cox.
*Image credits: Volvo Ocean Race/Brian Carlin