Volvo Ocean Race: Sanya breaks rudder

Crews strap themselves in for a few days of proper Southern Ocean conditions

Thursday March 22nd 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

Volvo Ocean Race charts courtesy of Expedition/Tasman Bay Navigation Systems

Positions at 1017 UTC:

Pos Boat Skipper Lat Lon Spd Crs DTF DTL
1 Camper Chris Nicholson 47 04.320s 160 47.870w 24 105 5503.2  
2 Groupama Franck Cammas 46 56.050s 160 42.120w 23.6 104 5503.7 0.5
3 Puma Ken Read 46 48.880s 161 07.150w 22.6 111 5526.9 23.7
4 Telefonica Iker Martinez 46 52.870s 161 44.120w 19.7 109 5548.1 44.9
5 Sanya Mike Sanderson 47 11.950s 162 07.420w 14.6 102 5554.8 51.6
6 Abu Dhabi Ian Walker 43 22.550s 166 22.850w 19 85 5857.7 354.5

Having been the technical leader of leg five of the Volvo Ocean Race overnight, so this morning the third significant damange occurred to the Mike Sanderson-skippered Team Sanya this morning (UTC) when their windward (starboard) rudder broke causing the aft compartment to take on water. The crew reported the damage to Volvo Ocean Race Race Control in Alicante at 0800 UTC adding that they were working through the aft deck hatch to pump water from the aft watertight compartment. There is no water leaking into the main compartment of the boat.

The reasons for the broken rudder were not immediately clear. The damage occurred while the boat was doing between 20 and 25 knots in 2.5-3m waves. In addition to the two main rudders, Volvo Open 70s also carry an additional emergency rudder. This rudder is mounted either on the transom or through the same bearings as the main rudders.

This is Team Sanya's third big setback since the start of the race. Shortly after leaving Alicante on Leg 1 they suffered collision on their bow that caused flooding to their forward compartment and result in the boat having be shipped to Cape Town. On Leg 2, a key piece of rigging broke, forcing them to head to Madagascar for repairs.

While the damage is likely to be have been due to a collision with a submerged object, it should be noted that this is not the first time this boat has suffered rudder problems...more here.

Meanwhile the remainder of the fleet has spent the last 24 hours rounding the south side of the high attempting to make it into the strong southwesterlies on the northwest side of the giant Southern Ocean depression centred to their southeast. The data coming from the boats indicates that they are on the perifery of this with the wind backing just south of east for the frontrunners and into the low 30s for the boats furthest east. As a result boat speeds are back up to the low 20s, as you would expect them to be in the Southern Ocean, although keying into the back end of a depression typically doesn't provide the optimum conditions for going fast. 

With the leaders accelerating so Abu Dhabi has lost miles against the leaders in the last 24 hours, now back to 354 miles adrift compared to 305 yesterday morning. Part of this is that since all the leaders gybed mid-evening yesterday, so they are now laying the western end of the waypoint gate, while still in the winds to the south of the high Abu Dhabi is on a course further to the north than she would like to be.

Going forwards the speed the giant depression is moving west, looks to be slow enough to allow the VO70 leaders to remain in the favourable strong southwesterlies until the weekend and in fact the forecast indicates that on Sunday the depression's track east slows even more so that the boats come Sunday night/Monday morning may end up catching the front. But in short it is going to be big Southern Ocean conditions for the next few days, of the type that is written about in the Volvo Ocean Race brochure, the only downside being that the boats will be behind the front rather in the flatter water ahead of it where they would be better opportunity to hit top speeds.

The forecast is also favourable for getting the boats around both the significant ice waypoints they will encounter during the next 1500 miles of sailing. Unfortunately it is not so favourable for Abu Dhabi who look set to be held up in light conditions as the leaders are making big runs over the next three days.

Hamish Hooper reports from Camper:

This time yesterday we were basically drifting.

Last night Groupama crossed our bow by about a boat length in the pitch black dark. Today the breeze has begun building into what Stu Bannatyne refers to as, “the reason we do this Volvo Ocean Race.”

There is a sense of real excitement onboard as finally we have begun some fast downwind sailing in good breeze, which has, in all seriousness, had pretty much become a distant memory for a lot of the crew.

As he was on the helm, Nico commented that he had forgotten just how fun and intoxicating these boats are when they light up and take off in conditions they are designed to be sailed in.

I on the other hand am more apprehensive rather than excited.

Ever since I began this job over a year ago I have been hearing stories from all of the guys about sailing fast in the Southern Ocean and have never been able to decide whether I was electrified or petrified by them.

I hope my apprehension morphs into exhilaration and excitement rather than out right fear.

Right now we are doing 24 knots boat speed in 21 knots of breeze, the trouble is the forecast is for up to 40 knots of wind… so I guess I am still rather frightened by the prospect of just how fast, and how much water over the deck there will be going in that much breeze!

Time will tell if I enjoy it or not…

I have a feeling this is where the guys catch the bug that makes them keep coming back to do this race.

I think I have had an inoculation to that particular bug already... but I can’t be sure.

As if there wasn’t enough on, a notification has just come in warning of falling space debris, which is supposed to be at highest threat between 0056- 0905UTC in a big area of the Southern Ocean.

I guess the space janitors or whoever decides where to dump space junk picked this spot to dump the trash because generally no moron’s comes down here. That’s a sure sign of isolation isn’t it?

Speaking of isolation, I think in the next few days we will be in the vicinity of ‘Point Nemo, or the Pole of Inaccessibility - which is the point in the ocean that is farthest from any land - approximately 1670 miles.

Another comforting thought…

But seriously, these conditions take the utmost seamanship and skill to sail well in, and the boats will take another hammering. I am just hoping the only thing that is broken by us is the 24-hour record.

At these speeds we will be at Cape Horn in one wet week’s time.

“Without a doubt the best sailing in the world is downwind sailing in the Southern Ocean - no question about that. We are about to get a bit of it. Our tactics for sailing from here to Cape Horn- be safe and go fast.” STU BANNATYNE 


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