A look at the third week of the second leg of the Volvo Ocean Race

Sail-through service centre -a couple of essential crew drop-offs at Eclipse island turned in to a major pit stop point

SEB’s success -the Swedes continue to hold the lead but they need to maintain cover

Protest alert -djuice and Amer Sports Too are to face the jury when they arrive in Sydney

Having experienced some of the best racing so far, deep in the Southern Ocean the previous week, crews were showing signs of tension once again earlier this week as they crept around Eclipse Island in drifting conditions. Those at the front who’d worked like demons to retain the lead in the downwind Southern Ocean blaster, were suddenly brought to a standstill in the light wind zone on the approach to the island, giving those further back in the fleet the opportunity to snatch some valuable time/distance.

The Eclipse Island waypoint did, however, despite forcing the fleet to head away from the wind, create the perfect location for transferring Keith Kilpatrick, the sick crewman aboard Amer Sports One, to hospital. It also allowed Marcel van Triest (navigator aboard SEB) to jump ship and head for home following the sudden death of his mother earlier in the week. But it didn’t end there. It soon became a sail-through service point with many yachts picking up spares including the girls aboard Amer Sports Too collecting their new oven. While one could be forgiven for thinking an oven could be classed as a luxury and therefore does not warrant a replacement, it is something that is a necessity in, for an example an emergency hypothermia situation when food/drink needs to be heated up immediately. But what about illbruck’s new masthead unit that was replaced and fitted after rounding the island? Obviously the navigation lights had to be replaced, but one has to question whether the replacement of masthead wind instruments were a necessity under VOR Notice of Race Rule 7.3 Action in an Emergency Affecting RRS 42!

Back on the race track Team SEB sailed through from fourth position to take the lead from illbruck, and despite some extremely close racing, has managed to hold her off. But it’s not been easy. Not only were they without ace navigator Marcel van Triest, but they were faced with some incredible testing, tactical decisions on whether to go north or south across the Australian Bight. With illbruck snapping at their heels, they initially headed off north. They then changed their mind and went south but it wasn’t long before they headed north once again, increasing their lead to 16 miles.

So with 900 miles to the finish of leg 2 SEB has a lot of work to do hold off the pursuing pack. Although she’s managed to hold off of the likes of illbruck for most of the week, a 16-mile lead in this sort of race is incredibly vulnerable. Separating herself too far to the north at this stage is not a good tactical decision. Instead she should be concentrating on covering illbruck who’s heading further south. If illbruck picks up the stronger winds of the Southern Ocean depressions, she’ll have the lead in the bag within a matter of hours. And with News Corp and Assa Abloy just 70-80 miles behind, expect things to hot up over the next couple of days.