Racing

Buckin' Volvos

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Leg Two, a pleasant jaunt north through the tropics to exotic India? At some point, part of the way, maybe. Not now. The Volvo Ocean Race fleet left Cape Town last weekend and deliberately worked into the path of a series of low pressure systems to blast them east toward their scoring gate.

For some, it's been an overachievement.

A broken boom on Green Dragon. Plus a broken steering system after at least three major knockdowns.

A bruised body (another bruised body) on Ericsson 3, as recounted by media crew Gustav Morin, as the boat swept green water down the deck on a pitch dark night in a 40-knot puff, "Bowman Anders Dahlsjo lost his grip and got smashed into a winch handle down to leeward. The handle bent, and Anders was in agony holding his hand over his ribs. Now we have one more guy on painkillers."

And a broken Puma, for the second time. The first crack (at the bow) took nearly eight hours to patch. This time, flying off a wave to impact and a loud crack, as skipper Ken Reed recounts:

"Three of us were having breakfast and there was a bit of a stare into each others eyes. Justin (Ferris) said, 'That didn't sound good."

"Nope," I said.

"Nico (Chris Nicholson) added, "Maybe it was just an unloaded sheet snapping up on deck?"

"Justin looked down: 'Or maybe it was this large crack splitting the main longitudinal frame?' "

"The master of understatement. "

Faced with the likelihood of working a full day and night to effect a repair that might not stand up to a pounding, Puma diverted north, out of the path of the next, breezy low pressure system, with the risk of perhaps being swallowed by the high they had been trying to skirt. Reed again: "This is not good."

With the fleet tracking east toward a scoring gate, after which they will be able to choose a time to turn north, skirting the high, you have to be a person of opinion to judge who's in the best shape. The numbers don't necessarily tell the story, but the numbers are updated frequently at www.volvooceanrace.org.

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