Volvo Ocean Race: Back into the Atlantic

As Telefonica makes a pitstop in the lee of Cape Horn

Saturday March 31st 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

Volvo Ocean Race charts courtesy of Expedition/Tasman Bay Navigation Systems and GRIB (European model) from PredictWind

Positions at 0655 UTC:

Pos Boat Skipper Lat Lon Spd Crs DTF DTL
1 Groupama Franck Cammas 53 38.330s 063 28.000w 13.3 3 1696  
2 Puma Ken Read 53 59.750s 064 30.120w 11.3 10 1748.7 52.7
3 Telefonica Iker Martinez Suspended racing 0 0 0 0
4 Camper Chris Nicholson 45 40.670s 095 05.300w 16 77 3105.2 1409.2
5 Abu Dhabi Ian Walker 46 02.130s 105 57.620w 16.7 88 3441.1 1745.1

Groupama reached Cape Horn yesterday at 1255 GMT, "a huge relief for us," as skipper Franck Cammas put it. "It feels like we're leaving the main risks behind us considering what's happened to the other boats. We're proud to be the first ones to pass. It's a big moment for the crew."

According to MCM Yann Riou, Phil Harmer continued the Australian tradition of making the rounding in the buff, while the Swedish Martins broke out rum and cigars, while the French crew opted for champagne.

Puma followed the French VO70 round the maritime world's most famous landmark at 1352.

Since then Groupama chose to sail offshore, keeping Isla de los Estados to port, while Puma took the shorter tourist route through Le Maire Strait. Noting this, Groupama has since erred north to cover the American VO70, as well as avoid an area of high pressure forming over the Falklands today.

Behind them, Team Telefónica has done an exceptional job not to lose too much ground on the lead duo having closed to within 200 miles of the leaders (from more than 300 24 hours ago), before she suspended racing at 0427 UTC this morning off Cape Horn.

The Spanish team has re-evaluated their strategy for a pit stop in Ushuaia and instead have opted to stop at Cape Horn itself. Martial Creek, a cove in Herschel Island in the Cape Horn National Park, where they were met by their shore crew. Repairs in the pit lane began at 0640 GMT today. The team have been observed closely by the Chilean Navy, who have been in contact and even sent a plane up to look for the team. They have also been offered assistance by the Chilean Maritime Authority. The change will avoid the 100-mile diversion up to Ushuaia.

Yesterday members of the shore team had left Port Williams in a 50ft steel boat to meet up with the crew in the lee of the islands, where they will help to make the necessary reinforcements and repairs. The rules state that the team must stop for a minimum of 12 hours in order to receive outside assistance, and the team is confident of completing the work within that period.

Telefonica skipper Iker Martínez said: “We have decided to make a quick stop at Cape Horn to reinforce the damaged section of the hull and to get back in the race as quickly as we can. If all goes well, we'll try to carry out the repairs without stopping off on land to avoid the stretch up to Ushuaia, which would mean another 100 extra miles. Horacio [Team Telefónica's technical director] is sailing from Port Williams now in a 50-foot steel sailboat which will bring them to the cape. We'll meet there to take shelter so that we can make the reinforcements to the area of the bow that's been affected. The area around Cape Horn is a labyrinth of islands and this time they'll be help us to get some shelter so that we can work more effectively on the boat, with no movement and with the boat dry.

“The rules state that if you stop it must be for a minimum period of 12 hours, so we'll try to get it all done within that time frame. First we'll check if the outside of the hull is still intact. If it is, which I hope it is, we'll position ourselves so we're shielded, just behind the island of Cape Horn, to be able to work comfortably. The rules also state that if you pay the 12 hour penalty you are entitled to external assistance, so our technical director Horacio and the shore crew will be giving us a hand with repairs."

Martinez added: "I must thank the Spanish Navy and Vice Admiral Jaime Rodriguez-Toubes, the delegate for sailing, as well as the Chilean and Argentine authorities for the help and assistance they're giving us.”

As to getting back into the race, Martinez said: “Even though the gap seems insurmountable, the climb up to Brazil has some tricky points and we are likely to come across a complicated high that might shake things up, and that's given us a bit of hope that they may be stopped in their tracks ahead and we could catch up with them. You can always dream that something good might happen, right?”

Behind Camper continues to make progress towards Chile, while on Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing the crew has been carrying out considerable repairwork to hull delamination and are currently assessing their options.

Abu Dhabi skipper Ian Walker supervised an incredible five-hour job that saw 30 bolts screwed through the hull of Abu Dhabi’s boat Azzam (which means 'determination' in Arabic) to prevent further damage. The damage was discovered in darkness, so the crew waited for daylight to effect repairs.

In order to carry out the repair, the crew had to slow the boat to a standstill and tilt it onto its side in heavy weather so bowman Justin Slattery, lowered overboard secured to a rope and in full safety gear, could tighten the bolts on the outside of the hull. Boat captain Wade Morgan and watch leader Craig Satterthwaite braced the damaged section with parts ripped from the boats bunks, stacking system and lockers.

“We’ve basically joined the skins back together with a mechanical fixing,” Walker said. “At the moment it’s been much improved, we’ve got much less noise and it seems fairly strong. We’re still taking it quite easy right now.”

“The message is we’re in good shape,” Walker continued. “Right now we’re sailing with two people on deck, everyone else is down below resting. We’re making good progress towards the Chilean coast at the moment, north east away from the worst of the incoming weather.” 



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