Dongfeng Race Team replaces rudder, regains lead

Published on October 18th, 2014

(October 18, 2014; Day 8) – The first equipment casualty of the Volvo Ocean Race occurred when race leader Dongfeng Race Team hit an unidentified object and broke their rudder.

“At 0210 UTC, Thomas Rouxel was driving when we hit something,” writes Onboard Reporter Yann Riou in a report sent shortly after the incident. “The impact was violent, throwing Thomas from the wheel. We didn’t know what we hit. We checked the windward runner, we started to check the keel, and we wiped out. We then realised the leeward rudder was gone.”

The crew gybed and then considered their options. “We could either install the emergency rudder, or remove what was left of the old rudder and put the new one in place,” explains Yann. “We decided to go for the second option.”

Thomas put the diving suit on, and jumped into the water to remove what was left from the old rudder and put the spare rudder in place. The repair took two hours to complete.

The lost miles showed on the 0348 UTC report, with Dongfeng dropping to second, now 3 nm behind Abu Dhabi. “It is not easy to accept these kinds of things, but they happen,” says skipper Charles Caudrelier.

Fortunately for Caudrelier’s team, they did not have to accept it for too long, regaining their lead as the conditions transitioned from downwind coastal tactics along West African fishing villages and land marks, to riding northerly trade winds away from the African desert.

“These are the sailing days you will remember forever,” wrote Amory Ross on Alvimedica. “Beautiful downwind VMG running at 24 knots in wind and water that only continue to warm. It’s sailing perfection.”

But with the transition has come separation among the fleet, with a couple teams also faced with distance-robbing incidents.

Team Brunel had to send a swimmer into the water and dive down to get a strip of rubber from their keel, while Team SCA reported running into a fishing net.

The fleet is gradually spreading over the Atlantic and it’s all about catching the right weather window now. The Cape Verde Islands are their next obstacle, after which they must seek a path across the Equator, where the dreaded Doldrums await.

Leg 1 Position Report (as of 21:54 UTC)
1. Dongfeng Race Team, Charles Caudrelier (FRA), 4795.2 nm Distance to Finish
2. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, Ian Walker (GBR), 8.0 nm Distance to Lead
3. Team Brunel, Bouwe Bekking (NED), 13.0 nm DTL
4. Team Vestas Wind, Chris Nicholson (AUS), 14.0 nm DTL
5. Mapfre, Iker Martinez (ESP), 22.0 nm DTL
6. Team Alvimedica, Charlie Enright (USA), 51.0 nm DTL
7. Team SCA, Sam Davies (GBR), 79.0 DTL

Race websiteTrackingWatch logVideos

Background: The 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race began Leg 1 on October 11, which takes the 7 teams 6478 nm from Alicante, Spain to Cape Town, South Africa. ETA is Oct. 31 – Nov. 9. Racing the new one design Volvo Ocean 65, teams will be scoring points in 9 offshore legs to determine the overall Volvo Ocean Race winner. Additionally, the teams will compete in 10 In-Port races at each stopover for a separate competition – the Volvo Ocean Race In-Port Series. Final finish on June 27, 2015 in Gothenburg, Sweden.

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