ALICANTE, Spain, April 2 – Team SCA (Sam Davies/GBR) were savouring a rare, poignant moment on Thursday after they had rounded Cape Horn in the brutal Leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race to make a special tribute to their beloved coach, Magnus Olsson.
The Swede was one of most popular – and skilful – sailors ever to compete in the 41-year race and it was no surprise when SCA recruited him to train the first all-women’s crew in 12 years to contest offshore sailing’s toughest challenge. Tragically, however, Olsson, 64, did not live to see his team set off for their nine-month adventure in Alicante on October 11. ‘Mange’, as he was universally known, who competed in six Whitbread/Volvo Ocean Races, died in April 2013 after suffering a stroke.
The life and sporting lessons he passed on to Team SCA, however, have not been forgotten and on Wednesday, the crew found the perfect spot at Cape Horn to say ‘thanks’. Finally reaching the fabled point between the Southern Ocean and south Atlantic after battling through potentially boat-breaking conditions, a special ceremony was observed.
Team SCA’s Onboard Reporter, Anna-Lena Elled, recalled on Thursday: “It was a beautiful sight, the pretty wild sea and the South American cliffs shooting up from the water. We also had our very special moment dropping a wreath for Mange Olsson in the water. It was powerful.”
The women were carrying a eucalyptus wreath that was made in Auckland, the previous race stopover. The wreath had the 200+ messages that were left by family and friends at Olsson’s memorial service in July 2013 attached.
It was not long, however, before the women were back in the thick of hugely challenging conditions in the south Atlantic, having briefly crashed to their side in a so-called Chinese gybe, the week before.
Elled explained: “The Atlantic gave us a pretty warm welcome. Initially on the wind, but once we turned the corner and pointed towards the Maire Straits we were expecting a building breeze of up to 35 knots, but it tunneled through and increased and we saw 50 knots. We were dead downwind in big seas going through a relatively narrow gap. We had a pretty hairy gybe in 45 knots and in that process we damaged our J3 sail as it was full on.”
Team SCA have been very unfortunate in experiencing probably the worst conditions of any of the boats in the fleet on the toughest leg of the race. They had earlier ripped their fractional code zero sail during the Chinese gybe, putting that out of action, and their storm jib has also suffered damage.
At 0940 UTC, they trailed the rest of the racing fleet by just under 750 nautical miles (nm). Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR) led the stage and overall, but were just 0.5nm clear of Team Alvimedica (Charlie Enright/USA). MAPFRE (Iker Martínez/ESP) were 11.5nm behind the Turkish/American team and Team Brunel (Bouwe Bekking/NED), 11.4nm further adrift (see panel). That main leading pack of four now have less than 1,000nm left of the 6,776nm stage from Auckland to Itajaí. They are expected to arrive on Sunday (April 5) with Team SCA likely to finish several days later.
Meanwhile, two teams aiming to win races against time to return to the event – Team Vestas Wind (Chris Nicholson/AUS) and Dongfeng Race Team (Charles Caudrelier/FRA) – have been busy on their separate projects.
The Chinese-backed Dongfeng Race Team expected to leave Ushuaia, Argentina, later on Thursday, having sought refuge there following a mast-break early on Monday approaching Cape Horn. They will travel under sail and motor to Itajaí, aiming to have a new mast fitted in time for the Leg 6 departure to Newport, Rhode Island on April 19.
Meantime, Team Vestas Wind report solid progress in the rebuild of the Vestas Wind following its collision with an Indian Ocean reef on November 29 in Leg 2. After two months’ hard work at the Persico yard in Bergamo, Italy, the hull and deck have now been joined together.
Their hugely challenging target is to return to the race for the final two legs from Lisbon in early June.