Making changes for the Southern Ocean

Published on March 8th, 2015

The defining leg of the Volvo Ocean Race starts March 15 when the six teams take on the route from Auckland, NZL to Itajaí, Brazil (6,776 nm). Strong winds, deep waves, and freezing temperatures … this forms an exceedingly difficult for man and machine. The history of defeat is long.

“It’s certainly the leg you think about when this whole thing came to fruition,” acknowledges Alvimedica skipper Charlie Enright. “This is the first thing that’s really on your mind. It’s been described to me as really as two races – one to Cape Horn and then one to the leaderboard, generally. The big thing for us is going to be knowing when to throttle back and knowing when to put the hammer down. I think that line is pretty thin and we’ll look for some guidance from those who have been there before.”

For this leg, Alvimedica has made a roster change to add some Southern Ocean experience to the crew for Leg 5 with the addition of Volvo Ocean Race veteran Stu Bannatyne.

“Stu brings incredible experience to us for the tough Southern Ocean leg ahead,” said Enright. “The leg that we are about to embark on is like nothing we have seen in this race so far. With most of our crew never having sailed in the Southern Ocean and around Cape Horn, we will benefit from Stu’s knowledge and driving skills on this challenging leg.”

Stu is not new to the team, having sailed with them on a trans-Atlantic training leg last summer and provided valuable counsel. With six Volvo Ocean Races including three wins to his credit, the New Zealander is no stranger to the extreme conditions of the Southern Ocean.

“The next leg with its huge waves and sustained winds of sometimes over 40 knots is the most demanding of the race,” notes Bannatyne. “Knowing when to throttle back may be as important as pushing the limits. I hope I can help Charlie and the guys in their first Southern Ocean passage.”

During the 2011-12 edition, four of the six teams saw their Volvo Open 70s experience significant damage during this leg. Enright is optimistic that the one design Volvo Open 65s will have better luck.

“Thankfully, the boats were purpose built for this,” observes Enright. “We haven’t had a ton of breakages thus far. Down below there’s bulkheads everywhere, and the longitudinals are pretty sturdy – nice and tall. They come up to your knees in some places. I can’t speak to the conditions we’ll be facing, having not been myself, but the boat seems pretty secure.”

Sitting out this leg for Alvimedica is bowman/trimmer Seb Marsset (FRA), who will work from shore with the navigational support team and is scheduled to re-join the race crew for Leg 6 from Brazil to Newport, RI.

“The rest of our crew will have to step it up on Leg 5 to cover for Seb who has proven to be a key team member. Seb and I have talked about this possibility of a crew swap on Leg 5 since before the race started when we brought Stu to our safety course last summer,” Enright said.

Team Alvimedica crew race crew for Leg 5 are: Stuart Bannatyne, 43, (NZL); Alberto Bolzan, 32, (ITA); Nick Dana, 28, (Newport, RI, USA); Charlie Enright, 30, (Bristol, RI, USA); Ryan Houston, 32, (NZL); Will Oxley, 49, (AUS); Dave Swete, 30, (NZL); Mark Towill, 26, (Kanehoe, HI, USA); and OnBoard Reporter Amory Ross, 30, (Newport, RI, USA).

Above photo: Stuart Bannatyne. ©Amory Ross/Team Alvimedica.

Background: The 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race began in Alicante, Spain on Oct. 11 with the final finish on June 27 in Gothenburg, Sweden. Racing the new one design Volvo Ocean 65, seven 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. The fifth leg, from Auckland, NZL to Itajaí, Brazil (6,776 nm), begins March 15 with an ETA between March 31 and April 10. Race website: http://www.volvooceanrace.com/en/home.html

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