Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Not just a sitcom from the sea

Shattered: PUMA skipper Ken Read slumps over the broken mast
Photo - Amory Ross
Since the action of the first night when both Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and Team Sanya suffered damage that put them out of leg 1, the crew communications have settled into a relaxed daily routine - of amusing tails of life on board and race commentary reacting to every three hourly position report.

And the teams were beginning see the end of the leg and the final push for Cape Town. The lead was still up for grabs - it was looking like a battle royal between Telefonica and PUMA with Camper. It was all playing out like it should.

It’s so easy to sit back with a cup of tea in a comfortable chair and view all the fantastic footage coming off the boats, thinking how wonderful it is to be almost there, looking over the shoulders of the crew as they sail through the warm trade winds.

Real problems
Then bang! Sit up, spill your tea and realise that the Inmarsat satellite communication isn’t just bringing you another sitcom from the sea. It’s solving real problems and saving real lives.

Last night’s shocking news that PUMA had lost their rig over the side came with an almighty jolt. The communication traffic turned from talk of freeze-dried food and smelly crew kit to saving lives and logistics.

The shock of loosing the rig in only 23 knots of wind in broad daylight has shattered the team.

Safe port
Devastated that they have had to retire from the leg, they now have the long and arduous mission of getting to a safe port and start to recover and regroup.

They have set course for the small Island of Tristan de Cunha, 700 nm away. There is no airport as the Island is serviced by boat alone, but I guess this is a real case of any port in a storm.

It will be up to PUMA’s logistics team to solve the next problem and join that other race led by Team Sanya and Abu Dhabi - the race for leg 2.

Mark Covell

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