MAPFRE sailing blind in Volvo Ocean Race

Spanish boat MAPFRE (Xabi Fernández/ESP) were ‘sailing blind’ in Leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race on Monday after a problem with communications antennae on board prevented them from receiving key weather and other data.

Race Control was alerted to the problem over the weekend and has since worked with their suppliers and the boat to find a solution.

Gonzalo Infante, who runs the Race’s high-tech communications control room with the six-strong fleet, said on Monday it was not clear exactly what had caused the issue, which involves two antennae not functioning. Communications with the other five boats are working as normal.

“We can still send and receive plain text but cannot send detailed weather data. This has impacted on their ability to make strategic decisions – they are sailing blind,” he said.

Infante added that the Race was working with its suppliers of communications hardware and software on the boat to find a diagnosis and fix.

In a message from the boat, MAPFRE’s Onboard Reporter, Francisco Vignale (ARG), wrote: “We only have email which works. Jean Luc (Nélias-FRA), our navigator, is very limited in his work and can not forecast or work out future routes.”

Additionally, the crew is unable to send out images or videos, which have kept their many fans up to date with progress so far in the race.

Vignale added: “The main thing is that we’d like to say that we are all well, despite not being able to talk with our families. Each one of us wants to send a big ‘hi’ to our nearest and dearest.

“We hope to solve this problem as quickly as possible – there’s still a long way to go in this leg.”

Despite their challenges, MAPFRE were very much in the thick of the battle to finish first in Auckland after the 5,264-nautical mile (nm) stage from Sanya.

At 1240 UTC on Monday, they were in third place some 74.4nm behind Team Brunel (Bouwe Bekking/NED), who were cashing in on their decision to sail north of the rest of the fleet early in the leg. The stronger winds and better angles towards Auckland that decision gave them, has propelled the Dutch boat 64.9nm clear of the main pack led by Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR).

Team Alvimedica (Charlie Enright/USA) are tight behind fourth-placed Dongfeng Race Team (Charles Caudrelier/FRA), the overall race leaders, with Team SCA (Sam Davies/GBR) still sailing north of the rest of the fleet and biding their time before making their own decision to bear south.

– VOR Media

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