Thursday, 10 November 2011

I can honestly say it’s not normally like this

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing  leaves Alicante to rejoin leg 1
Photo: Tim Stonton/Volvo Ocean Race
If you ever go to a sailing event and look around at the bobbing boats in no wind, or stand sheltering behind a yacht club wall because there is too much wind, and grab a chat with a local, you will hear the ever so common phrase, “It’s not normally like this.”

Leg 1 Alicante to Cape Town 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race: four days in and I can honestly say, “It’s not normally like this.”

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing dramatically broke their mast in heavy air and steep waves after only six hours of racing, and had to return to Alicante to step a new mast.

Hull damage
Shortly after that, Team Sanya suffered massive hull damage after probably hitting something floating in the water and delaminating an area the size of a table tennis table. To make matters worse, in an unrelated incident bowman Andy Meiklejohn sustained an injury during a sail change.

I’m pleased to report that throughout all of these incidents, the reliability of the Inmarsat satellite communications was a great comfort to the teams.

Those four boats which forged on were battered for another 24 hours before breaking out into the Atlantic Ocean, led by the race favourite, Camper.

Out on a limb
Only a few miles separated them until the next dramatic event happened. This time it was down to a choice made by a team. Groupama decided to split from the fleet and dive south and hug the coast. They are now way out on a limb.

As I write, the fleet is about as far apart at this stage of the race then ever before. Team Telephonica is 450nm ahead of Groupama and they are 880nm ahead of Abu Dhabi, who are desperately trying to rejoin the race and play catch-up.

Mike Sanderson’s Team Sanya has unfortunately retired from Leg 1 and will be trucked and then shipped to Cape Town where they will effectively cut and shut a new bow section on.

In my next blog I will endeavour to shed light on the high v low options and the big question, can Abu Dhabi catch up? But for now I’ll sign off with that age-old observation: “It’s not normally like this.”

See Team Sanya’s dramatic damage here:

Mark Covell

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