Friday, March 23, 2012

Southern Ocean Roller Coaster - Volvo Ocean Race Update

CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson/AUS) is leading Leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race in a rollercoaster ride 30 nautical miles (nm) to the north of the 800 nm long ice limit, set at latitude 47 degrees south.
Photo: Hamish Hooper/Camper ETNZ/Volvo Ocean Race
Three of the top four boats have achieved 24 hour runs over 500 nm and it remains a game of brinkmanship as to which team will best balance the risk and reward during the breakneck dash to Cape Horn. The crews are becoming increasingly tired and according to skipper Chris Nicholson, that is when mistakes creep in and it is all about avoiding downtime.
Photo: Hamish Hooper/Camper ETNZ/Volvo Ocean Race
Overnight, CAMPER experienced a couple of enormous nosedives. “If we get through this unscathed we will get ashore and think this was the best time we ever had but right at now at this moment in time I have to call it quite a stressful situation,” Nicholson said. “Sometimes, to ward off stress you have a bit a laugh -- it’s better than crying. You have a bit of a laugh when you can, but seriously, we are just putting total energy into keeping everything in one piece”.
Photo: Yann Riou/Groupama Sailing Team/Volvo Ocean Race
Phil Harmer, helmsman/trimmer with Groupama 4 (Franck Cammas/FRA) reported winds of 30 – 35 knots and five metre waves overnight. With fiercer weather yet to come, it is a question of weighing up the benefit of going fast versus the danger of breaking equipment.

“To finish first, you must finish. That’s what my father always said,” Harmer recounted, adding that it’s hard to see the waves at night. “We have gone to a safer rig tonight. There’s no moon, so we have a rig on that is a lot easier to drive at night. It’s a little bit slower but I would think the rest of the fleet is in the same mode. We are all in the same game and have the same concerns”.

Onboard it is very wet, bumpy and noisy and the heavy spray pummelling the boat is becoming colder. Bailing is a constant occupation although Nicholson says bailing is like chasing cats around. “The water is just running from one end to the other and it is hard to catch.”

As the boats lurch and pitch even the smallest of tasks become onerous and communicating with the outside world, using freezing fingers on a damp keyboard is one of them. “They haven’t done rollercoaster rides where you have to operate a computer before,” Nicholson said.

Cooking and eating is another task readily avoided and the crews are choosing to climb straight into their damp bunks and sleep for as long as possible rather than eat. Not surprisingly, fatigue is starting to set in.

“You can see it in the guys’ faces,” says CAMPER helmsman Rob Salthouse.

At 1000 UTC today CAMPER led the fleet with Groupama in second PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG (Ken Read/USA) in third and Telefónica (Iker Martínez/ESP) in third. Average speeds for the past three hours have ranged between 19 Р22 knots for the main pack.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR) in fifth place are at latitude 42 degrees south and have taken a dive down towards the leading four, making around 19 knots, but still with a 476 nm deficit.

Meanwhile the repair to the hull of Sanya (Mike Sanderson/NZL) has been holding up well according to the Sanya skipper. “We have made a piece of carbon plate and used a lot of the fastenings that were there to hold the rudder bearing together. We have a fairly nice surface to bolt to,” Sanderson said after turning back towards New Zealand to repair the damage sustained on Thursday when their starboard rudder sheared off.

The weather for the return trip is not ideal, being predominantly upwind. “We are not able to sail the boat at full speed, so we have a bit of a slow trip on our hands, about five days to do 1000 miles. We are aiming to try to limp the boat to New Zealand at about 75 per cent of what it is capable of,” Sanderson said.
Leg 5
23/03/2012 10:00:58 UTC
Volvo Ocean Race Media

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