Volvo Ocean Race Fleet Doubles Cape Horn

It’s been the best of times and the worst of times for the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race fleet as it battles its way through the Southern Ocean toward home. 
Author:
Publish date:
 Brunel and MAPFRE are neck-and-neck as they round Cape Horn. Photo courtesy of VOR/Rick Tomlinson

Brunel and MAPFRE are neck-and-neck as they round Cape Horn. Photo courtesy of VOR/Rick Tomlinson

It’s been the best of times and the worst of times for the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race fleet as it battles its way through the Southern Ocean toward home.

Alvimedica, with U.S. skipper Charlie Enright in charge, led the way past “Cape Stiff,” as the old-timers used to call it, on March 30, with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Azzam, Dutch-flagged Brunel and MAPRE hot on its heals.

 Charlie Enright (left) and teammate Mark Towill celebrate their Cape Horn rounding. Photo courtesy of VOR/Amory Ross

Charlie Enright (left) and teammate Mark Towill celebrate their Cape Horn rounding. Photo courtesy of VOR/Amory Ross

Less fortunate was Chinese-flagged Dongfeng, which had been tied for first overall with Azzam when the fleet set out from Auckland on March 17, but was dismasted on the same day just hours before turning the corner.

“The mast broke without warning in about 30 knots of wind. We are unable to sail safely on starboard tack, but we are able to make reasonable speed on port tack,” reported Dongfeng’s French skipper Charles Caudrelier.

Although details as to the team’s immediate future and what went wrong remain somewhat murky, what is known is that the mast broke without warning above the second spreader and that the boat has diverted to the Argentinian port of Ushuaia at the tip of South America.

Caudrelier has yet to decide whether the boat will withdraw from the leg completely or try to effect the necessary repairs to carry on in the interest of still collecting some points that will go toward the overall standings

"I’m gutted. As you’ve seen from the position reports we have been, on purpose, backing off a bit, not attacking in any way,” Caudrelier said afterward. “It’s really hard for everyone, we were leading the race overall and this is a kick in the teeth. Hurts to think about the other teams still in full competition, still sailing.”

 Just another day at the office aboard Azzam off Cape Horn. Photo courtesy of VOR/Mat Knighton

Just another day at the office aboard Azzam off Cape Horn. Photo courtesy of VOR/Mat Knighton

As for Swedish-flagged SCA, things were equally frustrating as the crew continued to limp through the Southern Ocean without its fractional Code Zero, which was damaged as the result of an out-of-control gybe. “We can’t take any more risk with the sails that are left because we need them on the way from Cape Horn to Itajaí,” said skipper Sam Davies, as she and the rest of the crew fell farther and farther behind. The good news is that once in the Southern Atlantic, the more moderate weather may allow her to get some miles back.

Meanwhile, at the front of the pack, life may be better, but it’s hardly a walk in the park, as the competition remains tighter than ever. As has been the case throughout this round-the-world regatta, the teams have often been in sight of one another, on at least one occasion crossing within mere boat lengths of one another even after weeks of racing. Despite the extreme conditions, the time differences are once again little more than what you would expect in an inshore buoy race.

Alvimedica and MAPFRE have a close crossing deep in the Southern Ocean

“This is pretty special for us,” Alvimedica’s Enright said on being the first to make the turn north, but he added that the race was far from over and there are no points for being the first round the Horn. “We can see Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing behind. The match-racing continues. Keep the focus!”

“I’m just happy to get here safely. That’s the main thing,” said Azzam skipper Ian Walker, who rounded the Horn a mere 15 minutes behind. “There is still a long way to go, but it’s a big relief. And it’s an even bigger relief because we’re in good shape.”

As for MAPFRE and Brunel a mere two minutes separate as they passed the iconic cape. Currently, the leaders are expected at the finish in Itajaí, Brazil, April 4-5. As tough as things have been in the Southern Ocean, the competition could get even more brutal between now and then.

Related

IMG_0173

Electronic “Flares” for Cruisers

The United States Coast Guard requires that all boats operating in coastal waters or on the high seas carry a selection of visual distress signals. Almost invariably, such signals include the pyrotechnic type, either handheld or fired from a flare pistol, but surely there are ...read more

M2-HOOK-TOP-AND-CHAIN-1

Gear: M2 Chain Hook from Mantus

Stay Hooked Chain hooks on anchor snubber lines tend to fall off when you least want them to. Not so this latest example from Mantus. The M2 Chain Hook is secured to the chain by a simple elastic strap, so it won’t come off when the snubber loosens. Made from corrosion-resistant ...read more

shutterstock_349918991

Successful Surf Landings with Wheels

“Ready to take the dink ashore?” Never had those words invoked as much anxiety as when my husband, Jeff, and I first moved to the Pacific Coast. Why? Because we had exactly zero experience with dinghy surf landings, and the possibility of being flipped upside down along with our ...read more

Sail2010_597

How to: Find Good Values on Charter Vacations

So, you want to find a great deal on your next charter vacation? Sure, you can scour the internet, hope for Black Friday deals or ask friends. But an even better way to find good prices on charter boats is to go to a boat show. Not only do charter companies like The Moorings, ...read more

leadphoto

Know How: Dinghy Modification

The rigmarole of stretching a cover over a dinghy in choppy water prior to hoisting it on davits can become a very wet business if you’re not careful. Leaning right over either end, trying to stretch a cover over the bow and stern pods can quite easily result in a head-first dip ...read more

25980

Catnapped Aboard a Racing Multihull

It was after midnight when I realized my daysail with Tony Bullimore aboard his giant record-breaking catamaran, Team Legato, was not going to plan. The big cat was en route for a December dash from England across the Bay of Biscay to Barcelona and the start of a drag race ...read more