Keeping up to date on the volvo ocean race. As I sit her on a Friday evening with the wood fire on and drinking a glass of wine I catch up on the Volvo Ocean Race. For me this is an aspect of yacht racing that I never got into myself but which fascinates me in it’s brutal hardship and unbelievable competitiveness ….. Been rooting for Ken Read and Puma since the beginning (and in fact during the last race). At the moment they are deep in the south pacific with 40+knots and GIANT waves crashing all around …. They are hitting 30knots in speed (and that’s with them throttling back to avoid damaging the boats) which on a monohull is pretty freakish. I expect the 24hr record will be broken in the next few days as these 70ft carbon monsters do their designers proud.
Conditions are so extreme on Leg 5 that teams are taking their foot off the throttle, according to Groupama helmsman Charles Caudrelier, who is mindful of the fact that there is a lot more to be lost than won in the Southern Ocean.
Yann Riou/Groupama Sailing Team/Volvo Ocean Race
“I think there is nothing tougher than sailing through the Southern Ocean on a Volvo Open 70. You’re very badly protected; the boats are very fast and wet. We are in the deep end of the pool” – – Groupama helmsman/trimmer Charles Caudrelier
The boats were averaging around 20 knots boat speed on Friday, and four had notched up 24 hour runs in excess of 500 nautical miles, quick enough but not nearly as fast as they could be going if they were not halfway through a race around the world.
“The only way (to keep the boat in one piece) is to slow down,” Caudrelier said on Friday. “We are far from being as fast as we would if the sea state was good – we could be above 30 knots of speed and we are actually around 20, 25 knots. So we reduce the sail area and nurse the boat.
“I think everyone has slowed down; some more than others. It’s for the guy steering to use his seamanship and it’s strategic too. This surely is the most beautiful leg to win, it’s also the one, which can make you lose the Volvo Ocean Race. If you break the boat here…. Let’s look after her.”
Caudrelier said the waves, some up to five metres, were slamming on deck, and each was colder than the one before. Survival suits, gloves, balaclavas and life-line tethers are no longer optional, they are a necessity in the southern lows.
The 38-year-old Volvo first timer admitted that it was tough going – – the cold combined with the stress of driving blind at night made for extremely testing conditions.
“I think there is nothing tougher than sailing through the Southern Ocean on a Volvo Open 70,” he said. “You’re very badly protected; the boats are very fast and wet. We are in the deep end of the pool.
“At the helm, you’re doing all the work and it’s interesting. You got to play with the waves and the wind, you got to nurse the boat, but it’s not easy. At night you don’t see a thing. It’s stressing too because lots of waves come on the deck. But hey – we are attached and we built a little shield with the sails in front of us: it’s not that bad!”