China’s Dongfeng Race Team were forced to carry out repairs on Thursday to a detached mast track that could have hampered their challenge in Leg 2 of the Volvo Ocean Race.
The track runs the whole length of the 30-metre mast, connecting it with the mainsail. It is important for the attachment points to run smoothly along the track, enabling the crew to adjust the height of the mainsail when reefing in high winds.
“It’s like a curtain rail,” explained Race watch producer, Mark Covell, an Olympic silver medallist from the 2000 Sydney Games. “If it’s bent or broken, it causes issues when reefing.
“It needs fixing but in high seas that’s pretty difficult – and dangerous too, because the man up the mast gets battered about like a ragdoll. But it needs fixing.”
Dongfeng Race Team’s bowman Kevin Escoffier (FRA) had the tough job on Thursday of bonding the track and the mast back together, suspended some 15 metres above the deck. He carried it out around 1200 UTC.
The Frenchman had already made a temporary fix by strapping the track to the mast, preventing it separating further.
The track was bent and pulled away from the mast on Wednesday night as the fleet sailed through a transition zone, south of the islands of La Réunion and Mauritius.
Race Director, Jack Lloyd, was very confident on Thursday that Dongfeng could safely sail the remaining 3,500 nautical miles (nm) to Leg 2 destination, Abu Dhabi, and still fully compete with their six rivals.
“The issue onboard Dongfeng is a minor one which is under control,” he said. “They got the instructions from the suppliers as how to do the repairs onboard. This is something that can happen when you push the boats as hard as we are pushing these ones. In general, there have been no significant issues.”
Meanwhile, the ‘storm’ which the fleet thought could be facing them in the Indian Ocean has been downgraded to a ‘depression’ but the fleet will still face 30-40 knots by Friday afternoon and will need significant seamanship to find the right angles to use the gusts to best effect.
Team Alvimedica were in the best of spirits despite the weather challenges. The Turkey/USA boat (Charlie Enright/USA) celebrated Thanksgiving Day on Thursday with rations of turkey jerky for the crew. To see the celebrations in full, check out volvooceanrace.com.
At 0940 UTC (see panel above) on Thursday, Team Alvimedica held a 2nm lead from Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR) with MAPFRE (Iker Martínez/ESP) 1nm further adrift in third. Team SCA (Sam Davies/GBR), the seventh-placed boat, were only 15nm behind Enright’s team.
The fleet are expected to complete the 5,200nm leg from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi around the middle of December, depending on conditions.
– Volvo Ocean Race Media