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

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

  • Speed adrenaline for VOR crews – adrenaline is the key ingredient for record-breaking speeds and close racing

  • Gear breakages – why are VOR boats suffering with so much broken gear?

  • Southern Ocean emergency – the medical emergency aboard Amer Sports One has raised a few questions about dealing with future problems

Action-packed is the best way to describe this week’s VOR antics in the Southern Ocean. After a patchy start to the second leg, just under two weeks ago, the boats headed south to catch the big winds of the Southern Ocean and big winds they were! But it’s not just the wild winds and mountainous seas, but the icebergs which are a constant concern for the crews. A 24-hour iceberg watch in freezing, wet conditions is a mean task but it is an essential part of navigation in this treacherous part of the globe.

However, despite the inherent discomforts, the adrenaline rush of the Southern Ocean is the perfect reward for the crews as they power their way downwind in the Roaring Forties. djuice dragons was the first boat to establish a new 24-hour run speed record for the second leg by sailing 403 miles. But with the ink barely dry in the record book, Team News Corp notched up a speed of 451.2 nautical miles, 2.1 miles more than the record set by Lawrie Smith’s Silk Cut in 1997. ‘It was bloody hard work,’ explained Ross Field, ‘but very rewarding. We had the right boat, great sail combinations, excellent crew work and the best weather to wring hell out of the boat.’ However, within two days, Team SEB had taken the lead from illbruck setting a new record of 453.4 miles.

With such aggressive racing, it’s hardly surprising to find the lead swapping and changing sometimes within the hour. djuice dragons lost her beginning of the week lead to Assa Abloy who, together with SEB, took the northern route after passing the Kerguelen Islands. illbruck has taken the lead once again but Assa Abloy, currently lying in second position just three miles behind, is one to watch. If she continues to keep up the pace, expect a lead change within the next few hours.

What this leg has highlighted so far is the amazing amount of gear and equipment breakages that have occurred. djuice dragons with her continuing headboard car problems being a prime example. Yes, the conditions are extreme but that’s what round the world ocean racing is all about. Surely by now one would think manufacturers would have come up with kit that crews can rely on. Obviously there are exceptions when gear fails through ill use but, with the continuous stream of ripped sails, failing headboard cars, a broken steering wheel aboard Assa Abloy, a failed rudder on Tyco, and bits of boats falling off after just 11 days at sea, one has to question the quality of boats and the equipment used.

Thanks to the skills of Dr Roger Nilson aboard Amer Sports One and the Swift response from the RAAF who delivered fresh medical supplies to the yacht, Keith Kilpatrick who’s suffering from an intestinal obstruction, is now in a stable condition. However, he will be transferred to hospital as soon as possible for further treatment. Although Kilpatrick’s illness couldn’t have happened at a worse time, in the middle of the Southern Ocean, it has highlighted the fact that without a qualified doctor on board (Nilson is the only qualified doctor in the race), the results could have been a lot worse for Kilpatrick. While it’s assuring to know that each yacht is equipped with telemedicine facilities to allow doctors ashore to diagnose and direct treatment on board via cameras and satellites, but the question is, how easy to perform would this be for an unqualified medic in an emergency situation?