The Southern Ocean threatened to deliver the Volvo Ocean Race a punishing leg 3 packed with damaging wind and dangerous waves, and she sure delivered. With the fleet about halfway to Melbourne, conditions have calmed a bit from nearly a week of raging seas and winds delivered by a massive low pressure system which delivered an excess of 50 knot winds. Our TotalBoat Ambassadors, Charlie Enright and Nick Dana are aboard Vestas 11th Hour Racing, reported seeing over 60 knots and got the boat going a blistering 38 knots!!! Akzo Nobel reported breakage to their mainsail/ mast track and elsewhere the insane amount of water washing over the boat accidentally deployed PFDs and is wearing down these salty souls. Mostly the fleet has remained in one piece so far, but there is plenty more icy ocean between the fleet and the finish.
As the boats try to stay as far south as possible, chasing the strongest breezes, they have been forced to gybe along the Ice Exclusion Zone which has managed to creep north mid-leg, forcing the boats in front to gybe almost hourly, so as to avoid a penalty for crossing this imaginary line in the ocean. -The line is there to protect the fleet from icebergs and growlers that the VOR Race Committee can see and monitor from race control. The mission is to keep the fleet clear of these fangerous icebergs which could easily tear the carbon boats going 20+ knots (often in the dark) right in half.
To stay most engaged and enthralled with the dramatic updates, be sure to follow along with all the excellent media to enjoy on the VOR website, so make sure to check it out if you’re at all interested – and follow along as the pics, videos and blog posts come off the boats. If you navigate to the Tracker inside the Racing Nav Bar drop down – there is Raw Content, Race Blog and From the Boats – all of which are delivering some very up-to-date and thrilling reporting from the sailors.
Now that the wind has calmed down to a relaxing 25+ knots, the boats and crews are sighing with relief to be free of the raging downwind conditions. It was quite a baptism to the Southern Ocean for the newbies, and for the experienced sailors, as well. To hear the sailors who have been down this Southern Ocean Road before, refer to the conditions they are in as “Scary,” is unsettling, even for us armchair sailors. These are sons and daughters and dads and sisters out there racing, and knowing Charlie Enright’s family and the worry his poor mother endures when he’s at sea, makes these horrible conditions seem even worse, because you can picture the moms, husbands and kids of these brave sailors, lying awake at night, worried sick, with no contact and little word from on board – except for the coveted Raw Content and blog updates we all are glued to from our cozy keyboards. When the fleet survives this leg, one of the fastest and gnarliest in the history of the race, they will have some great sea stories to share, and hopefully they are full of chuckles and smiles as they recollect the frightful conditions that they all survived without incident. So far the injuries have been amazingly limited (Brunel has an injured crew member who has hurt her leg and is resting belowdecks) I’m sure they are all wishing they could be looking back on this now, but when they pull into Melbourne, estimated now to be on Christmas Eve, they will have survived some of the toughest racing of their lives. And that they survived and can smile about it will be the best gift of all to their families, friends and to their teammates.
We wish the fleet continued safety as they gybe their way towards Australia.