Turning Point: Some good, Some not so good

Published on March 30th, 2015

(March 30, 2015; Day 14) – Cape Horn and the Southern Ocean are surely the two biggest challenges offshore racing offers – and today we were reminded, in bitter-sweet contrast, exactly why.

Four boats in the Volvo Ocean Race celebrated rounding the venerated landmark of Cape Horn on Monday, leaving in their wake the broken dreams of Dongfeng Race Team who suffered a fractured mast before daybreak.

Team Alvimedica had the considerable honour of leading the battered fleet past the fabled point at 1407 GMT, just 15 minutes clear of overall race leaders Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.

Team Brunel and MAPFRE, rounding within two minutes of each other at 1523 and 1525, were hot on their heels as the fleet prepared to head north at last and back in to the Atlantic for the first time since November.

They still have quite a challenge in store, navigating up the Brazilian coast towards the final Leg 5 destination of Itajaí, which they will reach after 6,770 nautical miles (nm) of the most testing sailing in the nine-month offshore marathon around April 5-6.

For Team Alvimedica’s 30-year-old skipper Charlie Enright, rounding the Horn as leader was the culmination of an eight-year dream, which first took shape on the film set of Disney movie, Morning Light, when he hatched the idea of entering a team in sailing’s leading challenge.

There are no points on offer for leading the Volvo Ocean Race fleet around Cape Horn, but so much kudos. “For me, most of this race is about competition, but this leg is a little bit different. This is pretty special for us,” said Enright of Bristol, Rhode Island, by far the youngest skipper in the fleet.

But this was no time for lengthy celebrations. “We can see Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing behind. The match racing continues. Keep the focus!”

Ian Walker, who has so far carried out his pre-race battle plan of earning podium places on every leg, was equally buoyant. “I’m just happy to get here safely. That’s the main thing. 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,” he said.

The Emirati boat had just set the fastest 24 hours’ sailing in the race, travelling 551nm. That is the third fastest ever recorded in the 41-year-old race behind ABN AMRO TWO (2006 – 562.96nm) and Ericsson 4 (2008 – 596.6nm).

For Dongfeng Race Team, who had started Leg 5 locked on eight points (lowest overall wins) it was a case of ‘what might have been’ as well as ‘what next?’.

At 0315 UTC, the crew were startled by a sickening crack that sent all of them scrambling to deck to check out the damage. The boat’s mast had broken above the third spreader, which robbed it of much of its manoeuvrability.

The plan is now to nurse Dongfeng to Ushuaia, Argentina, under sail. Reached via Inmarsat, a bitterly disappointed Caudrelier said: “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.

“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. We will head towards Ushuaia and assess our options for getting to Itajaí.”

Click here for report, photos, and videos.

He could retire from the leg, but if a patched-up boat can be returned to the Leg 5 track and complete the stage to Itajaí, Charles will earn an extra two points – six for sixth and last place instead of eight for not finishing at all.

That could make all the difference come the end of the 38,739nm race in Gothenburg, Sweden, on June 27, especially with Dongfeng Race Team currently so close to the lead.

Meanwhile, Team SCA were continuing to battle their way through heinous conditions in the Southern Ocean, some 550nm behind the pack still racing. They have been considerably hampered by damage to their fractional code zero sail after a Chinese gybe last week sent the boat crashing on its side.

Sam Davies’s crew are expected to round Cape Horn in the early hours (GMT) on Wednesday. “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,” she said.

Charles will understand her caution. Completely.

Report by Jon Bramley.

Leg 5 (6,776 nm) Position Report (21:40 UTC)

1. Team Alvimedica, Charlie Enright (USA), 1835.5 nm Distance to Finish
2. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, Ian Walker (GBR), 2.5 nm Distance to Lead
3. Team Brunel, Bouwe Bekking (NED), 30.9 nm DTL
4. MAPFRE, Xabi Fernandez (ESP), 32.0 nm DTL
5. Dongfeng Race Team, Charles Caudrelier (FRA), 217.0 DTL
6. Team SCA, Sam Davies (GBR), 543.1 nm DTL
7. Team Vestas Wind, Chris Nicholson (AUS), Did not start

Race websiteTrackingScoreboardVideosCrew list

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), began March 18 with an ETA of approximately April 4.

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