A rough day in the Southern Ocean

High winds caught up with the Volvo fleet over the past day. There were some scary moments and torn sails, but no one was seriously hurt and all the boats are back racing. Details after a cut.

Four boats (at least) experienced uncontrolled crash gybes as they surfed at high speed on big waves. First it happened to ADOR, and then to MAPFRE, whose OBR Stefan Coppers posted this intense crash-cam video:

Rob Greenhalgh (Libby’s brother; the guy I pointed out in that leave-taking post the other day) was on the wheel at the time. You can see them surf down a big wave and stuff the bow at the bottom, causing the boat to pitchpole a little and spin out to port. The main gybes over, hanging up on the starboard running backstay, and they stop dead, pinned in position with the keel canted the wrong way.

You can see the crewmember who’d been on the mainsheet pedestal unclip his harness and start clambering around the cockpit, and Rob shouting for the engine to be started. (They need the engine so they can power up the hydraulics to cant the keel back to vertical.) Other things you can see during obsessive rewatching:

  • easing the sheet to let the headsail (the fractional Code Zero, or “FRO”) go forward
  • a cut after which the four-person watch on deck has been supplemented by the rest of the crew
  • easing of the starboard running backstay, allowing the main to go to leeward and the boat to start moving again
  • post-mortem commentary by Rob
  • sail repairs and re-hoisting the main

Dongfeng also did a crash gybe, though it was at night so their crash-cam footage wasn’t as compelling:

All three of those boats recovered relatively quickly from their crashes. The fourth boat, SCA, had a harder time when they suffered a series of mishaps around sunset yesterday.

Here’s their crash-cam footage:

It sounds like Sophie was thrown pretty violently across the boat during the gybe, but I think she’s saying that she was “afraid for her back”, and taking things slow, rather than saying she’d actually re-injured herself. Annie Lush got knocked down by a big wave a few days ago, and has been only gradually cycling back into standing watches, so the crew has definitely been banged up.

Sam gave more details during a satellite interview with Genny during today’s Inside Track episode:

Fifty-knot squalls with hail sounds intense.

SCA’s FRO was seriously damaged in the crash. Hopefully they’ll be able to repair it; it’s a crucial sail for running in medium to heavy air. They also broke one or more battens in the main, and apparently had the stack (the unused sails that they move around the boat for ballast) come partially free, such that it was dragging over the side for a while.

They ended up spending most of last night putting things back together and resting, only getting back up to full speed after sunrise. That sounds like a wise decision, given what they were dealing with, but the reality is that they dropped more than 100 miles behind the rest of the fleet by doing so. Here’s a tracker animation showing the time from their gybe to their recovery:


The boats should have lighter winds for a day or so as they pass the northernmost part of the iceberg exclusion zone. Then the wind should increase again as they push south toward Cape Horn. Here’s hoping they all stay safe.

Reposted from http://ift.tt/1y4s2JF.

Tags: vor, volvo ocean race, weareteamsca, team mapfre, dongfeng race team.

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