Yesterday, within the space of an hour, two very serious events had provided a stark reminder of just how dangerous and on the edge this race can be.
PUMA’s Mar Mostro (Ken Read/USA) became the second boat to dismast on leg one of the Volvo Ocean Race. The first was Ian Walker and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Azzam on the first night. PUMA’s Mar Mostro has since retired from this leg and will score zero points. Read and his team are considering all options in order to get the boat to Cape Town as quickly as possible.
“To say that we are disappointed would be the understatement of the day,” he said shortly after the rig went over the side. The boat was reaching in about 23 knots of wind, with one reef in the mainsail and a jib and staysail set. “This is by no means the end of the [PUMA] programme, but realistically it is quite a setback,” Read added.
Meanwhile, CAMPER (Chris Nicholson/AUS) now in second place, also had a stern reality check of what exactly they are doing and how on the edge it is.
Shortly before PUMA’s dismasting yesterday, bowman Mike Pammenter (RSA) was injured when, during a sail change, he was swept off his feet by a wall of water and collided with the shrouds, with the full impact being felt by his mouth.
Trailing blood, Pammenter staggered below where he was attended to by race veterans and medics Tony Rae and Stu Bannatyne.
Pammenter’s front tooth was completely smashed out and he cut his lip. Fortunately, he was wearing a helmet, saving him from worse injury.
“The comforting thing for sure was seeing Tony go about his role as the medic on board,” said CAMPER’s MCM Hamish Hooper. “Not too many people could suture up an open lip and inject a tooth nerve with anaesthetic on a Volvo Open 70 in the middle of a South Atlantic low-pressure system. True heroics.”
In spite of this drama, CAMPER only conceded two miles to race leader Telefónica (Iker Martínez/ESP) who remain focused on being the first boat to cross the line in Cape Town and are 94 nautical miles ahead of CAMPER. Telefónica is still heading south in order to skirt the Saint Helena High, which due to its position further south this year than ever before, means sailing more miles than anticipated in order to reach the westerly breeze on the southern side, and the fast escalator to Cape Town.
Now in third position, 274 nm behind the blue boat, Groupama 4 (Franck Cammas/FRA) has spent the last two days on a fast port tack reach. Australian trimmer/helmsman Phil Harmer reports good reaching conditions, with boat speed varying between 17 and 24 knots. “The guys are doing a great job of sailing the boat fast,” he said. “Our boat really enjoys these conditions. It’s a lot of fun sailing, but it also very wet, but that is part of the game. We have another day or so of this and then finally we will get the spinnaker up again hopefully and we get closer and closer to Cape Town every day. Everything is happy on Groupama 4.”