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Volvo Ocean Race: Roaring forties become simpering six knots

20/03/2012
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In a complete turnaround from the atrocious conditions the six-boat Volvo Ocean Race fleet has been forced to endure since the start of Leg 5 last Sunday, the famous Roaring Forties have been reduced to a ‘simpering’ six knots as the leading five boats pick their way carefully across a ridge of high-pressure.

It’s only likely to be a brief reprieve of 18 hours and the memory of slamming the boat through waves at 20 knots is still fresh in the minds of the crews who are nursing bumps and bruises, some more serious than others. “It’s funny how a day changes,” commented Chris Nicholson, skipper of CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand, currently in fourth.

Ken Read’s PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG has been one of the teams worst affected by injury and has had two men off games since the early part of the leg. The latest addition to the PUMA crew, Thomas Johanson, had an inauspicious start to his first Volvo Ocean Race. He was injured on day one having been blindsided by a wave, which washed him across the deck as he was emerging from the hatch and dislocated his shoulder. The onboard medics were able to manipulate the joint and he is now making a good recovery.

Read’s other casualty is Casey Smith, who has damaged his back seriously enough for Read to consider making a detour to the Chatham Islands to remove both casualties from the boat. The decision was put off as the patients began to show improvement and Read will reconsider his options in a few days’ time.

Although the fire hose conditions have abated, the air and sea temperature are plummeting as the fleet heads beyond 40 degrees south.

At 1600 UTC today, Franck Cammas and Groupama 4 relieved Iker Martínez and Telefónica of their pole position and PUMA had risen to second place.  By 1900 UTC Groupama 4 had pulled out a slim lead of 2.2 nm over PUMA, with Martínez and Telefónica less than a mile behind. CAMPER in fourth, 12.5 nm behind the Spanish, had Mike Sanderson’s Team Sanya on their coat tails, a shade under 2.5 nm astern. Speeds are slowly dropping and only Sanya and the trailing Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, who have a deficit of 379 nm to overcome, are managing to average double figures.

Once through the ridge, the crews can look forward to the first proper Southern Ocean downwind spinnaker running at around 17 – 25 knots, but right now, there is the opportunity to tidy the boat up, relocate lost gear and clothing and rest tired bodies.

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