Volvo Ocean Race: Speeding north

Puma extends her lead as the crews work out how they are to get around Recife

Friday April 27th 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 Puma Ken Read 12 19.400s 035 38.950w 14.2 3 3637.1 0
2 Camper Chris Nicholson 12 38.230s 035 42.520w 15.1 4 3656.3 19.2
3 Telefonica Iker Martinez 12 49.420s 035 56.050w 15.8 359 3669.7 32.6
4 Abu Dhabi Ian Walker 13 03.650s 035 50.670w 13.2 6 3682.7 45.6
5 Groupama Franck Cammas 13 54.430s 035 37.700w 10.5 354 3731.1 94

The difficult miles are now past with all the boats making it through the remnants of the front yesterday morning. Puma ultimately committed to turning north at around 0800 yesterday, with Groupama last to tack north at around 1030. Since then there has been a starboard tack drag race north and overnight with the breeze slowly veering towards the east, so Puma team has doubled her lead up to 19.2 miles over Camper. Close reaching is not a strong point for the Ian Walker-skippered Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and after their strong start to this leg, and mid-afternoon they were overhauled by the mighty Telefonica.

The crews are fortunate for at this stage they would normally find themselves hard on the wind on starboard tack. However with the St Helena high currently located in the southeast of the South Atlantic, the wind is further right allowing the boats to crack their sheets slightly and make fast progress north.

However as they approach the Tropics, so there will be increased cloud activity which Puma navigator Tom Addis says: “We’ll be active at all hours of the day and night from here on in."

In the shorter term the big issue is to get around Recife and while the wind is currently at around 080° (ie more left than the chart above indicates), the crews are awaiting for the wind to veer into the southeast, a lift which might allow them to get around Recife. If not, then we will see boats tacking offshore.

Yesterday Ken Read reported from Puma:

This doesn’t seem like the Volvo Ocean Race – not one single bit! It is comfortable on deck, the water is warm, amazing temperature, starry night, heading reasonably toward the next mark.

What is up with all of this!?!?!

I can’t get used to it. No thrashing, bashing, soaking, freezing, boiling, upwind hate mission. Maybe I am just dreaming.

So I pinch myself, and sure enough this is reality. And we are doing all right as well. Extra bonus for being with the lead pack.

I can talk about the race anytime, and I need to elaborate on an amazing coincidence that I believe Amory may have touched upon. I can’t get it out of my head.

Out in the ocean there are what seem to be a million ships. Not so many on the path we took last leg, but for sure we are in the civilized world now and ships are everywhere. You remember all the ships as we passed through the Malacca Strait.

Certainly two ships stand out in my life these days. The TEAM BREMEN was the ship that came out to Tristan da Cunha and picked us up to get to Cape Town for Leg 2. But prior to TEAM BREMEN there was the ZIM MONACO – a massive container ship owned by a Greek company with a Russian captain named Borys Bondar. It was the ship that went way out of the way to deliver us much-needed diesel fuel when our mast (and world) came crashing down on Leg 1. We tied up alongside in the middle of the ocean and took on about 30 canisters of our boat’s lifeblood. In the middle of the ocean, we need our Volvo Penta engine to charge batteries and make water and saturate our freeze-dried food. The ZIM MONACO was the only ship that came to the call of Pan-Pan from the Portuguese Coast Guard. A pure act of seamanship. We owe more than we could ever repay to Captain Bondar.

So what are the chances of ever seeing the ZIM MONACO again? Pretty slim, I would say. A container ship that travels the globe. Not a chance right? Last time I looked it was a pretty big ocean with a lot of ports of call.

How about tripping over the ZIM MONACO in the port of Itajaí, Brazil? The morning of the send-off. Crazy amounts of people everywhere, and up walks a short, thin Russian who says to me, “Hello Captain Read (strange to be called captain anything). My name is Valery Bezlepkin and I am the new captain of the ZIM MONACO. We are parked right over there.” He points to the ship berthed about three-quarters of a mile up the harbor from where the race village is in Itajaí.

There it was in all her glory. The ZIM MONACO.

I stood there aghast. Lisa Ramsperger, our PR head honcho, was standing next to him and almost couldn’t contain herself. What are the odds we would trip over each other again? Both after traveling/sailing around the world.

Captain Bezlepkin had taken the place of our friend Captain Bondar, who was taking his normally scheduled vacation leave. Captain Bezlepkin passed on his regards, said the ship’s crew followed the race and have watched a bunch of Volvo videos on board after seeing our crazy looking little boat in the middle of the Atlantic. He also brought us a gift – bottle of whiskey and a carton of cigarettes. What else would a ship’s crew offer for a gift!?! We quickly replied with a PUMA shirt and jacket. Probably less likely to cause cancer than the cigarettes, but the gesture was real nonetheless.

One thing that will always stick with me is the comment that Captain Bondar made when we wrote to each other following our diesel loading. Of course, I thanked him profusely after the incredible act of kindness that he displayed, for sure something that cost his company money to do. His response…”In as much as we are all seamen, we should all help each other at unforeseen situations that arise at sea.” A pretty amazing attitude in today’s world of corporate profits and time management. I can tell you one thing for sure. We contacted about five other ships via VHF those fateful days, looking for diesel and some help. Once we explained our situation to each ship, each one of them mysteriously had trouble speaking English or had radio trouble all of a sudden. Not the ZIM MONACO.

So the ZIM MONACO is alive and well. It turns out they have been to Singapore, China, South Korea and here to Brazil since we saw them last. They are off to Argentina and Uruguay next. Their own little Volvo race.

I bet it isn’t as much upwind work as ours has been.

- Kenny


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