Sunday, 25 January 2009

VOR: PUMA Breaks Boom and Heads for Shelter

PUMA's boom breaks in heavy seas. Image copyright Rick Deppe/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race.

Stormy weather during Leg Four begins to take toll on race fleet

by Kate Fairclough

In the early hours of this morning (Saturday 24th January, GMT) the PUMA Ocean Racing team, who were leading leg four of the Volvo Ocean Race, broke their boom. Whilst sailing upwind in over 50 knots with waves of over 20 feet high, the PUMA team was forced to stop abruptly when the boom, which runs along the foot of the sail, snapped in two. All crew onboard are safe and well.

The crew pull the mainsail down after the boom breaks on PUMA. Image copyright Rick Deppe/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race.

Skipper Ken Read (USA) and his team were able to save the two broken sections of the boom and are currently putting together a jury rig boom with which they intend to continue to race the remaining 1,100 miles north to Qingdao, China. The team immediately sought shelter in a small harbour on the western coast of the island, where they are waiting until the worst of the storm they have been expecting for the past week, passes. Several of the other six teams in the race appear to be doing the same.

Kiwi Erle Williams driving PUMA with water everywhere. Image copyright Rick Deppe/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race.

PUMA Ocean Racing skipper Ken Read (USA) commented from the boat: “We are busted and hiding in a harbour in the northern end of the Philippines right now trying to sort out a couple of things. We broke our boom in half. We were in 50 knots of breeze and 20 plus foot seas. We had a storm jib up with three reefs. It wasn’t the most pleasant place in the world but we were handling it. I was in the companionway, we were about to tack back in towards shore and we were probably about ten miles off the beach in mammoth seas. Then bang, the boom just broke. No rhyme or reason that we can see right now. We have to figure out why that would happen. We had waves breaking over the top of the boat as we were trying to secure the pieces. It’s pretty disappointing. You work your ass off for five or six days, and you go from leading the leg and having ten miles on the group, to having to head for shelter. It’s a devastating day for us but we are still in this leg.

“We are still racing, though we are stopped right now. We have got ourselves sorted and we are getting ready to go, we’re just waiting for a weather window [with less wind]. There are some guys out there in some really gnarley stuff right now. Delta Lloyd is just heading round the corner as we speak to come and hide in our little cove with us. I wish everyone out there tons of luck and safety and well-being. It is not exactly perfect Volvo 70 weather out there.”

The Volvo Ocean Race fleet is expecting the worst of the storm to pass over the next 24 hours, after which they will begin to make their way further north, into the Straits of Luzon between the Philippines and Taiwan. PUMA hope to keep pace with the fleet with their jury rig in these conditions.

View of the stormy seas that the fleet is encountering. Image copyright Rick Deppe/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race.

Talking about the situation in comparison to the broken boom Green Dragon sustained during leg two, Ken commented: “It was not like the type of situation Green Dragon was in - they were going downwind, so they could keep the mainsail up and work on a jury rig while sailing. But for us, we were in a tough spot. To get a proper jury rig that will actually work upwind, we decided that we should wait for better weather. We didn’t want to go all the way there on a storm trysail. We decided to hole up and we think we see a weather window in the not-too-distant future so we will be out of here and on our way quite soon. In terms of leg five, we have a spare boom sitting in Newport which will be air freighted to China within a few days. We’ll live to fight another day.”

PUMA Ocean Racing

Volvo Ocean Race

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