The remaining 4-boats of the 6 original VOR Open-70′s that started leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race continue through the Roaring-40′s ice gates and race deeper into the Furious-50′s on their way to round Cape Horn for Brazil.
They’re racing through an area of the Southern Ocean that has no transcontinental over-flights, and is void of any shipping traffic. There is only the numbing cold and violently windswept wetness of the most isolated place on the planet populated only by the solitary Albatross and teams of international sailors seeking their own personal grails. They have a single link, a golden thread of technology. Inmarsat provides weather, scant news from home and a connection to their shore team while carrying their scheduled position reports and almost real-time media back for us ashore to follow. A single link for all communications. Clear, digitally pure and unambiguous communications.
The VOR-70′s are a unique breed; 70′ in length weighing-in at 14-tons, carrying 7.4-ton articulating keels. They are optimized for high-speed, long-distance racing in a series of globe-spanning sprints. Crafted of carbon-fiber with 31.5 meter spars of high-modulus carbon carrying sail plans of exotic colors on rigs of Spectra, the boats are capable of maintaining 30-knots, . . . Effortlessly. But in the Southern Ocean they’re being throttled back in hopes of surviving the punishment of 40′ waves.
The cold winds from Antarctica howl at 60-knots and push waves the size of condo-blocks that continue to batter the fleet. Sanya(CH) with damage to their steering gear has retired the leg and returns to Auckland, NZ while Camper(NZ) sails to Chile for structural repairs caused by 8-meter waves. Telefonica(SP) has adopted a slower and less punishing northern route, nursing a damaged bow to Ushuaia for reinforcing in port. Groupama(FR) is now chased by PUMA(US) 30-miles astern and closing. AbuDhabi(AD) trails by another 1400-miles after stopping for repairs to damage sustained in brutal upwind conditions at the start of the leg. Continue reading