Volvo Ocean Race: Dealing with reality

Published on April 1st, 2015

In the 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race, the leg from Auckland (NZL) to Itajaí (BRA) had its share of casualties. Among the six teams, only two were not derailed, most a result of hull damage en route to Cape Horn. Groupama had survived the crossing, but with only 677 nautical miles to go to the finish line, they were dismasted.

The accident occurred 60 nm south of Punta del Este (URU), where the team sought shelter to create a jury rig. Their decision would be to rejoin the race where they placed third in the leg. That recovery proved critical as they went on to become the overall winner.

Charles Caudrelier, skipper of Dongfeng, was on the Groupama crew.

Charles is again facing the reality of losing his mast, and while fortunate for it to have occurred just 240 miles from Cape Horn, there is not enough time for the team to continue in the race. Accepting that reality on March 31, the team is still in a race against time. Here is an update on April 1st …

Charles Caudrelier, Skipper:
We decided to retire from the leg. Considering the weather it’s impossible to be ready for the next leg and finish the race. To finish the race we would need to go back to Cape Horn with a jury rig, which means we can’t choose a big sail so we’d be really slow.

If we want to be ready, we have to leave Ushuaia, Argenitina as soon as possible, go straight to Itajai, use the engine and the small sails we can use. It’s a challenge against time. We need to be there one week before the start of Leg 6 to be ready to start. We are 2000 miles from Itajai. We need, for me, 10 to 12 days.

We are running out of time.

If we decided to finish Leg 5 we would be last for sure, so we would have received 6 points. By retiring, we received 8 points. It’s only two points difference but that’s quite big when you think about the overall rankng.

But if we did that we are not sure to be ready for the next leg and we’ll lose another 7 or 8 points if we don’t do the next leg. We need to focus 100% on performance in the next leg, and this is our goal.

We need to take at least 1,500 litres of fuel. This boat isn’t made for fuel so we need to find a solution. We’ve found a clever one using the ballast, which I hope will work. The main problem for us is to leave with a jury rig. If, on the port side we have a very strong wind, on the starboard side we only have one spreader, so we need to make a spreader which isn’t easy.We need to find cable to replace the cable we broke. Then we can say we have a safe rig to leave Ushuaia.

It’s a big challenge to make a jury rig in 2 days. We aren’t on the dock, there aren’t any shops for sailing boats, and we can only be helped by nice people around here. There are a lot of French people around here, we are lucky that they want to help us. They’re adventurers, sailors and already a guy has given us a whole main sail.

Since yesterday it’s been a real adventure and that’s what you’re looking for when you do the Volvo Ocean Race.

I’m not saying I’m happy, we’re very sad to have finished but I like this adventure. But I remember last time on Groupama we had a fantastic adventure on this leg and the finish was still good. So maybe we can dream of the same finish as Groupama.

Pascal Bidégorry, Navigator:
It’s not great – and it’s not great for the race either. But that’s life, no? You have to live with it.

Personally, I’m really, really annoyed. I just…I just feel that I’m never going to make it past that rock! Something stopped me going round Cape Horn, I’m wondering if it’s me… 14 years ago this exact same thing happened to me.

Obviously I have done something bad in my life and I’m being punished. I just can’t believe it.

So I’m trying to think about the night it happened and I’m already getting lost in endless possibilities. I really don’t want to think about the leg and the fact that this has stopped us going round Cape Horn.

Then I spent a lot of time working out how to go around the world as quickly as possible – something I actually never managed to do. Don’t get me wrong, I had the experience, the heart and the energy and yes it’s just life. But now once more it’s happened again!

Needless to say I’m very upset, and annoyed. I’m up and down. It’s brought me back down to earth, I’m on my way back to shore looking at the maps – which I know already because in the preparation for this leg, if something bad happens you need to be prepared.

It’s a lovely place here, but we shouldn’t be here, we should be racing. As soon as we knew we couldn’t sail on starboard we knew Ushuaia was the only destination possible, which of course meant we wouldn’t pass Cape Horn.

We wouldn’t have gone round Cape Horn first but the game was anyone’s. There were still plenty of things to do.

We’ve struggled with speed a bit on this leg but we managed to bounce back, we got back in the game, took the lead, we were in the mix – I was in the zone
and I thought we would be playing the game until the finish.

I don’t know… I don’t want to think about it…I don’t know what to think. I’m so upset I could cry.

I took some time off before this leg to spend time with my daughter and have a break. When I came back I was ready to achieve some great results and this is the worst result we’ve done so far.

The result is not very positive…but that’s life. C’est la vie!

Black, Sailor:
Firstly it’s a great shame we couldn’t see this through, I was so happy when I heard that I would have the chance to sail this leg because it gave me the opportunity to pass Cape Horn. I knew it would be difficult, I know it’s basically the ‘Mecca’ of the sailing world.

Our mast broke when we were only 240 miles from Cape Horn, we were only 10 hours away. We couldn’t sail around Cape Horn and now we can’t finish this leg.

It’s a shame and I feel really sad. Our shore team and all the sailors worked so hard, but then this happened to us and the job we’ve done for this leg feels like it’s nor nothing. It’s just such a shame.

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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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