groupama volvo ocean race

Volvo Ocean Race Confronts North Atlantic Storm, Leg 8 Highlights [VIDEO]

Rob Almeida
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June 17, 2012

Leg 8 of the Volvo Ocean Race recently took the fleet from Lisbon, Portugal, around the Azores, to Lorient, France.  Along the way however, they encountered serious weather that provided the crews with a REALLY wet ride, and the rest of us, spectacular race footage.

“It’s hard as skipper sailing into a low pressure system that you know is going to be brutal from a safety standpoint,” says PUMA skipper Ken Read.

“I think it was the anticipation of that storm that wears me out. Once you’re in it you can deal with it, but it’s that anticipation that’s not much fun.”

Camper, skippered by Chris Nicholson, logged an incredible 565.84 nautical miles over a 24 hour period during the storm.  It was the top 24 hour result posted of any boat since the race began last year.

CAMPER trimmer/helmsman Rob Salthouse, competing in his third Volvo, said racing at such hair-raising speeds was exhilarating stuff, but crazy too.

“I’m told you don’t have to be mad but it helps, and if anyone thought that was fun they’re mad,” he said.

“It was dreadful. We were pushing man and boat to the limit for 48 hours. It was a great battle though, and that’s why we do this race.

“It’s why we keep coming back to this race – for the battle.

“We had four boats out there going for it, hammer down and on the edge. But doing it for more than two days is pretty stressful!”

groupama volvo ocean race
Race leaders Groupama Sailing Team, skippered by Franck Cammas from France, finish first on leg 8, from Lisbon, Portugal, to Lorient, France, during the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12. Image (c) PAUL TODD/Volvo Ocean Race

“The last day and a half was really full on,” said Abu Dhabi skipper Ian Walker.  “It was mentally hard knowing how hard to push. It’s so hard to back off in these boats.  There’s just such a huge difference between backing off a little and going flat out.”

“I’m more amazed that these boats don’t break, than when they do break to be honest. We’re coming off waves so hard that bunks are breaking down below from the weight of the people landing in them. So you can imagine the loads on everything else.”

It was a truly heartbreaking leg however for former overall race leader Team Telefónica.

On June 14 the Spanish team broke their starboard rudder in 25 knots of wind, losing 11 nautical miles on the fleet and dropping from first to fourth.

Within hours after the repairs, the team had surged back into the lead before a second round of problems broke their replacement rudder and damaged the port rudder.

As the team dropped off the pace while stabilising their damaged boat the reality sank in. “We have just seen any chance of us winning this round the world regatta slip away,” a heartbroken Martínez said just hours after the incident.

The new overall race leader Groupama had their fair share of issues as well.

48 hours from the finish, Groupama’s mainsail got jammed at the top of the mast, just as they were trying to reef down.

In over 20 knots of wind and rough seas, their kiwi bowman Brad Marsh took one for the team and climbed to the top of the 31-metre mast three times to effect repairs.

After two hours, Marsh’s heroics kept the French team in the race and they only lost out 20 miles to the fleet.

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