Volvo Ocean Race: Southern Ocean leg brings disaster and glory

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The infamous Southern Ocean lived up to its name by providing the Volvo Ocean Race fleet with the most challenging race conditions of the Race so far with heavy winds and big swells. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team won the leg finally burying the miserable memory of their retirement from the same leg in 2012.

To add the icing to their cake, British skipper Ian Walker and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing set the new best mark in the chase for IWC prize for the most nautical miles (nm) sailed in 24 hours with 551nm leading up to Cape Horn.

Awesome…it’s been such a monster of a leg

Jubilant Walker, 45, straight after crossing the line in front of a waterfront packed by thousands of spectators, pronounced the sail as “Awesome…It’s been such a monster of a leg [and] we were so, so stoked with the 24-hour record,”

Title photo: Rick Tomlinson / Volvo Ocean Race

Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15 - Leg 5 to Itajai

Photo: Amory Ross / Team Alvimedica / Volvo Ocean Race

 

With winds sometimes as strong as 50 knots, the leg was as much about keeping the boat in racing condition as pushing forward. Walker and team would appear to have done an exceptional job of doing just that by slowing the boat on a number of occasions and losing ground to their competitors by saving the boat and crew for the days ahead; possibly they were lucky as well. Amazingly, skipper Ian Walker reported that they had reached Itajaí, Brazil with the least amount of work for their shore crew to do of any leg so far in this edition.

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Photo: Yann Riou / Dongfeng Race Team / Volvo Ocean Race

 

Unfortunately not all the teams were so lucky.  Chinese Team Dongfeng suffered a broken mast just a few hundred kilometres from Cape Horn and were forced to retire. The retirement, whilst not severe enough to force them out of the next leg, opens up a gap of 7 points to Walker’s team and placing unwanted pressure on the team from MAPFRE and Team Brunel now just 2 points each behind.

March 30, 2013. Team Brunel leads the Volvo Ocean 65 fleet around Cape Horn.

Photo: Rick Tomlinson / Volvo Ocean Race

 

Taking second place for the leg is MAPFRE, coming in a mere 32 minutes behind the winner. Amazingly the boats placed in third and forth, Alvimedica and Team Brunel respectively, also finished within one hour of the leader, incredible when one considered that the teams have raced one another over some 6,776 NM of open ocean!

The racing during this year’s Volvo Ocean Race has been the closest in the history of the event and whilst incredibly exciting for both competitors and spectators, ones heart must go out on this occasion to team Brunel losing out on a leg podium finish by an unbelievable one minute and eight seconds to Alvimedica, fighting all the way to the finish line.

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Photo: Rick Tomlinson / Volvo Ocean Race

 

Team SCA, the all women crewed boat, once again rounded off the finishing by coming in in 5th place ahead of the retired Chinese team. SCA suffered some technical issues with navigational equipment effectively sailing blind for an overnight period. The boat also suffered damage during a Chinese gybe including to their Code Zero sail. Then closer to Brazil the team collided during three separate incidents with unidentified objects, the first collision causing considerable damage to one of the rudders.

Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15 - Leg 5 to Itajai

Photo: Stefan Coppers/Team Brunel/Volvo Ocean Race

 

British Skipper Davies said “So we kind of let ourselves down by losing that sail. It was really, really hard; we were frustrated. There was nothing much we could do in certain conditions without our fractional.

We kind of let ourselves down by losing that sail…it was really, really hard…there was nothing much we could do in certain conditions without our fractional

The team can take solace however in having completed the most grueling leg of the whole competition and arriving in Brazil in one piece. Down but certainly not out.

Some more shots of the racing below:

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