Monday, 6 February 2012

Close call near the Vietnam coast

Groupama's Brad Marsh looking at a Vietnamese fishing boat.
Photo: Yann Riou/Groupama Sailing Team/Volvo Ocean Race.
Short tacking up the Vietnam coast is hard work for the fleet. They are so close to each other, only 70 nautical miles (nm) separating the front five boats. It’s piling on the pressure to eke out every foot, past every wave and every wind shift.

As I pen this blog there is under 230nm to race to the finish.

Groupama’s media crew member (MCM), Yann Riou reported hitting something. He described the “scares” on board the second-placed French boat: “One or two panics, first with an impact with an unidentified floating object last night, which touched the keel first and then the windward rudder… No apparent damage.”

Avoided disaster
Fifth-placed Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing also narrowly avoided disaster, just managing to duck past an unlit steel pillar buoy.

“We missed it by a metre and for sure it would have made a big mess of our bow,” skipper Ian Walker said. “It doesn’t bear thinking about the damage either of the incidents could have done to our boat. I guess a miss is as big as a mile, but these incidents serve to remind us of some of the unknown risks that lie out there.”

After reconnecting with the fleet after initially punching east into the South China Sea, PUMA Ocean Racing were this morning just 10 miles shy of CAMPER as they punched north in brutal seas.

Winter's pothole
“Conditions on board are still rough though, and we continue to slam into each successive wave with a shudder like that of your car through a big winter’s pothole. There is absolutely no give,” MCM Amory Ross said.

“We’re still in urgent need of sleep, too, but everyone’s resigned to the fact that it’ll have to wait until the hotel.”

“Even in the low visibility, Camper occasionally pops into sight off the bow, and we know Abu Dhabi is lurking somewhere close behind our stern, so the strategy from here seems simple: don’t give up too much leverage and play each shift like it’s the last.

Small enough
“The racecourse has become small enough that any gain is an important one—regardless of its size—and it promises to be a busy 36 hours of hard work fighting for every length of distance on the competition. Anything can happen,” Amory said.

I wouldn’t be surprised if there were late place changes going into the last few miles of this tantalizing leg three.

Mark Covell

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