Volvo Ocean Race, tough Southern Ocean conditions continue
Friday, December 15, 2017 11:00 AM
It's still blowing a solid 25 knots across most of the fleet on Friday morning. This might seem like a bit of a respite, but in truth, clouds bring squalls that have wind gusts well over 40 knots. The Southern Ocean never stops.
At the head of the fleet, Dongfeng Race Team and MAPFRE are bouncing off the Antarctica Ice Exclusion Zone, trying to stay as far south as possible. The southern routing is not only a shorter distance to Melbourne (think of the inside lane on a race track) but generally puts the boats in slightly stronger wind.
But the price comes at the cost of more maneouvres. This is tiring on the crew and dangerous.
On Thursday, a poor gybe on board team AkzoNobel resulted in damage to both the mainsail, the battens and most significanlty, the mainsail track that holds the sail close to the mast. Making a repair at sea, in these conditions, is a daunting proposition.
Overnight, the team was sailing under headsail alone, and at one point Race Control telemetry indicated they were surfing down a 10-metre wave.
Nonetheless, the team is working diligently to get back on track. They've sailed further north - this should find them more moderate conditions and also slightly warmer temperatures. The warmth is a critical factor in allowing the epoxy glues they are using for the repairs to set. For now it's a waiting game to give the repair every chance of 'sticking' before trying to resume racing.
Not surprisingly, this had slid team AkzoNobel out the back of the fleet, now nearly 300 miles behind the leaders.
But it's not all doom and gloom out there. In fact, this has been one of the sunniest Southern Ocean passages in memory.
"Unbelievably sunny down at 42 South today, with big waves, 30kts breeze. Just gybed to stay the north of the ice gate," read the instagram post from Abby Ehler on Friday morning, on board fourth-placed Brunel.
And it looks set to continue at least through the weekend.