VOR: Brasil 1, Ericsson Out; ABN AMRO One Leads

ABN AMRO One crewmember

Leg two of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Cape Town to Melbourne, is well under way. Brasil 1 suffered structural damage to the deck in heavy seas soon after the start, and has retired to Port Elizabeth, South Africa, for repairs. From skipper Torben Grael’s writeup, as hosted at Bang the Corner:

Unfortunately, during the second night we faced not so strong wind but really tricky waves, coming right into our faces. Brasil 1 got some really strong hits, changing directions every time a big wave got near.

One of these waves was especially hard but in the dark we couldn’t find anything wrong with the boat. As the sun appeared and the wind slowed down, Kiko found a big depression on the deck with a fissure next to the cabin. We lowered the headsail and reduced the main, to get some pressure off the mast.

After a quick evaluation of the size of the problem, knowing that we had 6,000 miles ahead and this was the last chance to come back, we decided to return to land. If we had continued we could put our lives and our boat in danger.

Meanwhile, Ericsson has also dropped out, having suffered (again, as on leg one) a failure in the canting keel’s hydraulics. Skipper Neal McDonald had this to say (from telegraph.co.uk’s Devastated, frustrated and empty):

I’m devastated. There’s no really another word for it. And even that doesn’t convey the true depth of the frustration and emptiness all of us feel.

A major problem with the keel on Ericsson means that for second leg in a row we can’t compete with the other boats in a race to which we devoted months of toil to have a chance of winning.

On the first leg, the control mechanism failed with 1,000 miles to go to Cape Town. We limped home for a fourth place finish. Then on Wednesday morning, less than 48 hours out of Cape Town, one of the rams broke with a bang.

Down with the sails boys, we’re going back, I told the crew. For about 35 minutes afterwards nobody really said anything. What was there to say?

The people at Sailing Scuttlebutt ran a poll, asking, “With two boats broken, should Volvo Ocean Race officials abandon Leg 2 for safety concerns?” The final results: Yes: 54%, No: 45%.

Meanwhile, ABN AMRO One continues their winning ways by leading the five boats still on the course. They’ve passed the first of two “ice gates”; special waypoints along the course that require the racers to stay north of the more-dangerous regions to the south, where floating ice is a major concern.

Photo: Unidentified crewmember on ABN AMRO One, from the team’s official site.

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