Crews must deal with broaches, Chinese gybes, shredded sails, boat damage and illness

The Volvo Ocean fleet are starting to get pretty wet on the second leg of the race, as wind speeds reach 40 knots. There have been spectacular broaches, Chinese gybes, shredded sails and damage to boats and bodies – as widespread sickness has meant involuntary diets for some crew members.

There has been a difference of opinion among the fleet as they jostle for a favourable position either side of a north-south separation on the passage to India. By the 16:00 GMT Position Report yesterday (18 November), Puma – heading the most northern – lead overall from Telefonica Blue at a Distance to Leader (DTL) of plus 2 nautical miles. Then came Telefonica Black at plus 20.

The pack of four in the south is lead by the Ericsson twins – E3 (plus 9) and E4 (plus 22) – with a wounded Green Dragon (plus 37) and Team Russia (plus 79) behind. Delta Lloyd (plus 82), also north, brings up the rear.

And so to the damage reports. The tale of woe on Green Dragon is well aired ( read previous story here ), Ian Walker reporting that the squall that hit them and broke their boom in two.

Green Dragon

“4 days into leg 2 and the Southern Ocean is living up to its name. 1 broken steering system, 1 Chinese gybe, 1 broken boom and now 3 knock downs but we are still charging along for the scoring gate at longitude 58 East.

I have to confess to being slightly nervous about our predicament but the forecast is good and we will soon be heading North (ish). We seem to have the boat going pretty well but we are vulnerable to being knocked down in the frequent squalls as we are fairly committed to carrying a full main and there is no easy way to ease it. It is also setting very full and this affects the balance of the boat. It wasn¹t an easy night for the guys on deck – and the temperature is falling fast.

Down below everything is sodden as we have several leaks (one of which is the hole we drilled in the side to jury rig the steering!). We also have a leaking daggerboard case, which has split. I feel a bit like the character the Black Night from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, who refuses to be beaten and keeps on fighting as his arms and legs are cut off one by one by his adversary.

We now have about 400 miles to the scoring gate and we lie in 3rd position (in terms of Easting) with a slender 25-mile lead over Puma and about 40 miles over the Russians. Our aim is to defend this as best we can and over the last 12 hours we have done just that. One of our challenges is going to be gybing – we are still discussing how we are going to do this – if at all – maybe we will granny round. We are also trying to sort out how we can reef if we need to. Tom Braidwood is itching to get going on fixing the boom but for now we are focusing on sailing fast to the scoring gate.

This focus on racing hard is great for moral and everybody is determined to make the best of what we have. For now then we are hanging on in there waiting for the wind to drop and shift to allow us to gybe and head back North. Our aim is to get as many points as we can at the scoring gate before worrying too much about how we will get to India. It still looks quite a long way away on the chart!

Oh yes – I don¹t wish to sound like a whinging pom but as if things can¹t get any worse I should also mention that somebody has brought a bug on to the boat and half of us now have sore throats and headcolds – I suspect it won’t be long before we all do – Joy!”

Ken Read on Puma (pictured above) also had a lot to describe after blowing their asymmetric spinnaker into pieces – an hour later the boat took off.


“Not to sound like I am whingeing, but I think I will anyway. Last night sucked. The proverbial ‘you-know-what’ hit the fan when we got about as vertical in a sailboat as you ever want to be going down a big dark wave that sort of snuck up on us. And when going straight down a big wave the inevitable bow crash is coming into the wave in front.

Not only did the bow crash into the wave but the prod, the bow pulpit and about 15 feet up the asymmetric spinnaker we had up at the time. Bang. Spinnaker in many pieces and a long night for Justin Ferris.

Then, soon after a watch change we found another beauty of a wave. Take off! This one was different than the other 10,872 smashes over the past 48 hours. This one caused several cracks in our longitudinal frames in the bow section.

And for those laymen out there, these frames are the spine of the boat which don’t allow it to fold in half. And they also don’t allow the bow to cave in when we hit waves. Kind of important piece to the puzzle.

I figure it cost us only about 30 miles on the race track. So my whinge is over. Sorry you had to be a part of it. I feel better getting it off of my chest. The competitive side of all of us hates to lose miles.’

Nothing left to be done but wait for the inevitable.”

Onboard Team Russia, the crew suffered their first “real, heavy, full-on massive flat-out broach,” according to skipper Andreas Hanakamp.

Team Russia

“The boat slowed down almost to a standstill, up to the mast in solid green water. Then, everything went into slow motion. Not a violent knock down, but the boat slowly turning, heeling more and more to wrong side, the boom high up in the air until coming over, and the kite flying around the forestay to the new leeward side and flapping in the 35 knots of breeze.

Fate was inexorable, nothing left to be done, but wait for the inevitable.”

Hanakamp climbed the vertical deck to free the runner; Wouter Verbraak handed him a knife to cut free the lashing; Cam Wills pulled the runner tail with Oleg Zherebtsov grinding it; Jeremy Elliott and Mikey Joubert managed to get the keel moving to the other side to right the boat. Job done.

Elsewhere, Telefonica Blue blew out a spinnaker. And with the crew hampered by sickness due to contaminated water, repairing the damaged sail down below brought unique challenges.

According to skipper Bouwe Bekking, the appointed seamstresses – Daryl Wislang and Jordi Calafat – needed one hand for the spinnaker and the other hand for the bucket collecting the contents of their stomachs. “Shows how strong a character they have,” Bekking said. Today, the spinnaker was still in bits and will take another 10 hours to fix.