Volvo Ocean Race: Camper to make repairs in Chile

As the leaders round ice waypoint gate. PLUS some impressive vid from Telefonica

Sunday March 25th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

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

Positions at 0955 UTC:

Pos Boat Skipper Lat Lon Spd Crs DTF DTL
1 Groupama Franck Cammas 47 42.370s 126 04.870w 19.8 120 4092.2  
2 Puma Ken Read 47 33.050s 127 15.000w 21.9 113 4138 45.8
3 Telefonica Iker Martinez 46 33.650s 128 02.850w 16.1 110 4196.3 104.1
4 Camper Chris Nicholson 44 59.700s 131 09.650w 11.3 96 4356.9 264.7
5 Abu Dhabi Ian Walker 46 08.480s 149 19.800w 8.5 72 4974.7 882.5
6 Sanya Mike Sanderson 39 09.520s 171 17.450w 15 278 6158.5 2066.3

Following the structural damage to the bow of Camper, skipper Chris Nicholson has announced that they will stop in Puerto Montt on the west coast of Chile to repair bow damage suffered in the lumpy conditions the boats have been enduring in this Southern Ocean leg of the Volvo Ocean Race.

Skipper Chris Nicholson explained: "We are 2,500 nautical miles away from where we are going, which is Puerto Montt in Chile, on the western coast. It’s about 800 nm north of Cape Horn. What led us to this course is I guess like a classic Southern Ocean snowball effect where we had some problems with our bulkhead early on in the race, we repaired that only for that repair to fail again probably about three days ago.

"Then we were trying to stem the flow in terms of stopping the problem getting any worse. The bulkhead offers a lot of support to our longitudinals (hull supports) and we have to keep the longitudinals intact. Unfortunately some of the secondary bonding let go off the longitudinal and that’s basically when seamanship has to take over and basically call enough is enough.

"We are running out of spare materials to effect repairs at sea and the repairs are struggling to be effective so we had to slow the boat down immediately and assess the situation. We estimate it will be three days of repairs and then we will be on our way to Itajaí. So we will suspend racing once we get closer to Puerto Montt, do our repairs and get back in the race."

One wonders why they chose Puerto Montt when it so far north as in addition to the time it will take to effect the repair, it represents a considerable detour.

Around 0100 UTC this morning, Groupama led the remainder of the fleet around the eastern end of the ice waypoint gate, followed by Puma and Telefonica three hours later. All three boats have since turned their bows towards Cape Horn, still around 2170 miles away from Groupama at the latest sched.

The GRIBs indicate that the wind should be veering from the southwest to the west the further west the boat sail, this has yet to happen with the wind from 228° for Groupama, and blowing 40 knots...proper Southern Ocean conditions. While it is honking, of greater concern is the sea state which is typically monstrous and confused to the west of Southern Ocean fronts.

Ironically conditions are completely the opposite for Ian Walker and the team on Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, which has just reached the western end of the ice waypoint gate but have a zone of high pressure parked on top of them. This is slowly shifting north over the course of today and they should be back up to speed later tonight with strong westerlies forecast to propel them east from here on. It is possible that Abu Dhabi may be able to make faster speeds than the frontrunners are making as the sea state should be less chaotic. For they have some catching up to do. In the last 24 hours they have lost more than 250 miles on the leaders.

Meanwhile Team Sanya are two days out of Tauranga, New Zealand. The team intend to be back in the race as quickly as possible.

Ken Read reports from Puma:

Ok. Holy crap, where to start…

Actually, I know exactly where to start. We have an amazing team on board this boat. I think at this stage we are all like-minded with our goals. We are pressing when we think we can press and slightly backing off when we think we have to back off. Everyone is on the same page. We are certainly making the best of what could be classified as a seriously full-on situation out here in the lovely Southern Ocean.

This is the leg that just keeps on giving. First a storm right out of the gates. Now, relentless wind pressure is bringing cold but still not frigid winds from the South. The waves are both impressive and intimidating in this part of this world. The massive swells are…who knows…30, 40, 50 feet tall. Ask anyone on any of the boats and I am sure you would find a different but still very large number.

It’s the waves within the waves that get you. They seem to go every which way. That is why we haven't called Laird Hamilton in yet for a wave drop. Sure the swells are massive, but the little guys (12 footers?) will spoil his winged surfboard ride for sure. Oh, and the fact that we are about as far away from land as you can get. Also, it is blowing between 30-50 knots the last few days. Sound like fun?

I think when you talk about experiences like this certainly the racing is secondary. Currently, we are a bit worried about our buddies on CAMPER. No word yet from anyone, which I guess is a good thing. But, they have been low and slow for about 12 hours now and for sure that spells trouble. I hope they can rectify soon and continue safely. Because that is what this is all about. Safely getting this fleet around the Horn.

It is easy to sit back and talk about being tough and gutting it out. But, the fact is when you are sailing boats that can go way too fast, if you let them things can get dangerous in a hurry. We have had the helmsman washed off the wheel no less than eight times during this leg. Nobody driving while the boat is doing well over 30 knots is not cool. We are lucky we have kept the wheels on in those situations.

On the other hand, going fast is what we do, and the faster we go the quicker we get away from this massive low pressure that we are sailing in. And, the quicker we can break out the rum and stogies at the Horn which everyone can't wait for.

So, a quick report from on board. Worn out crew or sure, but we have four-plus days to go to the tip of South America and still a bit of pressure and wave action to deal with…all the way there…oh joy.

- Kenny

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