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VOR focus on finish

Currently, the Volvo Ocean Race fleet is scattered around two sides of the South American coastline.

Two competitors have retired from Leg 7.

SHK Scallywag has reached Puerto Montt on the Chilean coast, a week after losing crew member John Fisher to the Southern Ocean. Their racing status was listed as “Suspended” while she was making her way to Puerto Montt. However, it has now changed to “Retired”.

There is no further information from the team as to what their next move will be.

Vestas 11th Hour Racing has set off from the Falkland Islands after her dismasting.

However, a few short hours after leaving Stanley Harbour, Falkland Islands, the team reported they had a mechanical issue and needed to return to port to further assess and make necessary repairs. “Given the long journey ahead, it is key that our VO65 is technically sound before making its way up the South American coast to Itajaí,” the team reported on social media.

There is a spare mast waiting in Itajai, the issue for the team will be the 1800nm trip to the Leg 7 finish – which they are attempting under motor. The alternative is to flag down a passing ship, or chartering a vessel either locally or from a South American port, and for the yacht to be transported on that, provided a shipping cradle or similar can be arranged.

Time is their enemy with the Leg 8 start just three weeks away on April 22.

At the head of the fleet Team Brunel, who finished a very safe last on Leg 6 into Auckland is still leading the fleet but is in a match race with Dongfeng Racing.

Leg 7 from Auckland to Itajai, day 15 on board Vestas 11th Hour. 31 March, . Checking into the United Kingdom, Falkland Islands. - photo © Jeremie Lecaudey / Volvo Ocean Race
Leg 7 from Auckland to Itajai, day 15 on board Vestas 11th Hour. 31 March, . Checking into the United Kingdom, Falkland Islands. – photo © Jeremie Lecaudey / Volvo Ocean Race

Dongfeng’s skipper Charles Caudrelier updates:

This morning we can see Brunel a few miles ahead! Those few miles ahead are also where the first place position is, the one we have been looking for since the start and failed so many times over the last few days.

We had a fantastic night sailing at 24 knots. We could have gone faster, but we can’t forget about all the breakages and the boats that have suffered around us so much since the start.

Winning the leg would be a fantastic bonus which will give us the lead of the race. But for that, we have to finish first, and that is what I am going to focus on. No mistakes can be made now.

Earlier Caudrelier reported:

Our bodies and minds are relieved to be out of the South.

It’s the last 48 hours of this epic leg, we have just passed the high-pressure today, and our world has completely changed in the last 24 hours.

The water temperature has climbed from 9 to 20 and the air from 3 to 18 in 48 hours. But strangely I have never been so cold as yesterday.

I think our bodies and our minds are just relieved to be free of the pressure and the fears of the South and we can relax. When you sail in this area, you have to disconnect your brain to forget your fears, the cold and the humidity.

When sometimes you go training in these cold conditions in winter for 24 hours offshore, you suffer a lot, and you think you will never be able to sail for eight days like this. But when you have no choice, you can push your limits so far.

That’s what we did last time, including our Chinese sailors who had never spent a night offshore before joining the race, and that’s what we all did on this leg – especially Marie, our Olympic sailor, who had the crazy idea to join this race with no offshore experience.

Now we have 48 hours left to try to pass Brunel, but first, we have to finish the leg without breaking our boat. Most of the fleet have had issues, and our priority now is to finish.

Latest from skipper Bouwe Bekking onboard Team Brunel:

Currently we are having the tail of the last heavy weather sailing, does it ever end on this leg? The good news, we have been eating the miles towards the finish quickly. The last 5 hours we averaged just under 24 knots!!!

You think you will be making big gains, but NO, only 2 miles on Dongfeng, they are pushing as well hard for the oh so important difference of the three extra points to be gained by becoming first on this leg.

You think we will have a healthy lead, but the bungy cord gets shorter again, actually not existing anymore, as the routing having Dongfeng and Team Brunel finish within a minute. It will be a battle between the yellow and the red bus for the next 36 hours.

Yann, our OBR, has been battling all day long to get his burned media station up and running, cable and wires were laying everywhere in the boat. Feeling sorry for him, he can’t do his job properly, as even a simple task like charging his computer takes forever. He thinks he makes a win, then realises that the entire hull is wired as well, then going back to square one.

It hasn’t been his day; he nearly lost his beloved drone, as soon he launched it he lost connection. Some French temper flared up; some good sounding French words made it happen for him, he someway, somehow got his drone back, after it was a couple of kilometres away from the boat.

The OBR’s are not supposed to be crewmembers, but I can tell you he is one of us, all onboard are looking after Yann.

Unfortunately, he will not be with us for the next leg, as he goes back to France to play with a real toy, the 100 ft foiling tri Gitana. He will probably only yawn when sailing onboard there doing our current speeds 🙂

Team AkzoNobel is in third place overall, over 230nm behind the leg leader and Dongfeng Race Team.

The second Dutch-flagged entry in the race has not been without her issues, but the team reports she is back up to full speed after having been forced to stop temporarily in mid-ocean yesterday to make running repairs to the yacht’s keel box.

The crew discovered damage to the keel plate – the housing on the bottom of the boat covering the hinge of the canting keel – after spotting water leaking out of the top of the keel box inside the boat.

Bowman Brad Farrand (NZL) – the team’s designated “swimmer of the watch” quickly donned a dry suit and divers’ mask before being lowered over the side of the boat on a halyard to assess the problem.

“There are two covers for the keel box, and the front half of our port one has snapped off completely,” Farrand explained after being hauled back aboard.

“There is a great big hole in the bottom of our boat …. so we are going to have to come up with a way to sail the boat that doesn’t push water up inside the boat.”

While the rest of the crew gingerly got the boat sailing again towards Itajaí in light winds caused by the close proximity of the St. Helena high-pressure system, boat captain Nicolai Sehested (DEN) consulted by satellite phone with expert technicians from the Volvo Ocean Race Boatyard service facility over possible solutions.

After some discussion and deliberation, the sailors decided to try to strengthen the top plate of the keel box by glueing three carbon struts on to it.

“We are expecting to be sailing at 20 or 25 knots of boat speed again today,” explained skipper Simeon Tienpont (NED).” “We took the lid off and resealed it – the pressure inside had blown out the seals – and reinforced it, so it doesn’t have too much bend or flex in it.

“I think this is what will get us safely to Itajaí.”

At 0700 UTC today AkzoNobel was in third positon behind Team Brunel (NED) and Dongfeng Race Team (CHN), travelling at 21 knots towards the finish line in Itajaí, with 751 nautical miles still to race.

Based on the latest weather and performance data the team is expected to complete Leg 7 around 1600 Brasília Time (BRT) 1900 UTC on Tuesday April 3.

In the War of Attrition into which Leg 7 has developed, Turn the Tide on Plastic skipper Dee Caffari reports they are back up to speed after a spreader issue, caused by a grub screw coming loose in the extreme conditions of the Southern Ocean. Although the spreader had worked its way aft, it was never going to develop into a catastrophic failure.

“Today is a mixed day. We entered the high pressure and were being lifted. We knew we would have to gybe but at this time did not have a rig safe enough to be on starboard.

“Through great support from the Boatyard, our Shore Team experts and Southern Spars, we have managed to secure the rig for a starboard gybe. This is great news and means we can still proceed to Itajai. However, vigilance is still critical for us to keep our rig in the air and keep racing.

“To reward all this hard work behind the scenes and the fact that Liz has been up the rig despite its vulnerability to make this happen, we were delivered Easter Eggs to celebrate.

“Another bonus is the temperature is rising slowly. We have some sunshine behind the clouds, and the sea temperature is up making life on board much more pleasant. We are slowly losing the condensation showers below deck.”

Turn the Tide on Plastic will be keen to keep out a hard-charging MAPFRE and not repeat their experience of Leg 6, where they were passed in the last few miles into the finish in Auckland.

MAPFRE had to suspend racing for 13 hours with a stopover at the tip of Cape Horn to repair a split mainsail and to effect repairs to her mast after managing to pull the integral mast track away from the back of the rig on Day 4 of the Southern Ocean leg.

MAPFRE’s skipper Xabi Fernández reports that they had gone from one extreme to the other.

“Here we go trying to sail north with no wind through a high-pressure zone. It is OK though. I don’t see the people complaining yet as we are happy to have a few quiet days. The boat starts to be dry, and it is not that cold anymore. I guess one of the worse things when the conditions are rough is the mess inside the boat, impossible to keep it dry and very hard to keep it tidy. Now everything is tidy and dry.

“Still fighting to get one more position as TTTOP seems to have a problem in her mast [after this was written TTOP had fixed her spreader issue]and we are slowly catching them, so we still have the motivation to sail properly, and the watches go quick.

Since we hoisted the repaired main, we keep looking up, and it looks it is going to hold so its good news for us. The track in the mast looks fine too, and we are following the timings of the routing more or less ok. This is giving us five more days of sailing!

It has been a very expensive price to stop for 12 hours but we know the weather sometimes helps you and sometimes doesn’t, and now it is not helping us much to get there somewhere close to the boats in the lead. It will be a problem for the elapsed time point at the end of the race, we have been the fastest so far but after this leg is going to be almost impossible to get that point so we will need to find it somewhere else.

We still feel positive where we are after all things happened on this leg, so we just need to finish this leg ASAP and start thinking about the next one.

Ironically the overall race leader is trailing the fleet in fifth place, 90nm behind Turn the Tide on Plastic.

by Complied by Richard Gladwell

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