Monday, 2 April 2012

A sorry state for the fleet to be in

Justin Slattery attempts repairs on Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.
Credit: Nick Dana/Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race
If you looked at the race tracker this morning you would see three boats are around Cape Horn and racing up the east coast of Argentina and two boats are limping along towards the west coast of Chile.

The final boat in the fleet, Team Sanya, is now back in Auckland and about to ship to Miami. All in all, a pretty sorry state for a fleet to be in when it is just past the half way-point of the race.

Many questions have to be asked about the strength of the boats and, to be fair, the crews who are pushing so hard.

Pushed harder 
Kenny Read, skipper of Puma Ocean Racing, commented in a recent blog: “Two things are certainly clear. The first, when conditions warrant we all have the power to break these boats.

“No matter who says this or that boat is built to withstand the elements in order to be able to be pushed harder than others, it just isn't true. Believe me, you can't call these boats fragile by any means. In fact, with the torture we put them through, it is simply amazing they are in one piece at all.

“Every boat is just one bad wave away from being healthy or hurt. Any boat for that matter - from a 30 weekend cruiser to a Volvo 70. These boats are no exception. Which leads to point two - we have certainly been calculated, but also lucky.

Caught air 
“We have caught air on many occasions when it was least expected. The crash that ensues is staggering. Heads pop out of the hatch and a crawling inspection around all the framing begins within minutes.

“We have been lucky so far. It’s like a car crash. You always wonder if it would have happened if you had left the house five seconds later or slowed at the orange light when you didn't. We have missed our car crash so far, so our timing has been pretty good.

“Have I ever mentioned that I knock on wood every time I say stuff like this? Our little piece of wood at the nav station is getting worn out.”

Hammer down
It’s interesting and both frightening to hear that the crews feel they could break the boat any time they want to put the hammer down.

Ian Walker, skipper of Abu Dhabi had even more issues on his plate. The outer skin has delaminated and needed to be stabilised. They had to hove-to 1,600 nm out to sea.

They swung the keel over to the wrong side to heel the boat over so they could lower the bowman down to work on the underside of the hull. They then drilled and bolted 30 times through the hull skin to tie it all together. This should get them to land so they can carry out a better repair.

Limping to port 

Camper is in the same position, limping to port. And Telefonica had to back of the gas and effect repairs in the lee of an island just past Cape Horn.

Congratulations to Groupama and Puma for holding it all together and laying on such good racing now there are so many boats out of the hunt. They are only five nautical miles from each other.

It’s going to be another close finish.

Mark Covell

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