Tuesday, 17 February 2009

VOR: PUMA LEG FIVE DAY 3 QFB: received 16.02.09 1206 GMT

PUMA Ocean Racing snap their steering wheel after ploughing into the bottom of a huge wave, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race. Image copyright Rick Deppe/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Kenny Read

I think our average wind speed so far this leg has been in the mid 20's and we peaked out at 44 knots while reaching through a small group of islands just south of Japan. That was fun.

Sitting below staring at the computer, making calls through the deck com system as to what we should expect next with regard to wind strength and direction, all the while navigating through a small gap in the islands and stepping into the Kurishio Current (this part of the world’s Gulf Stream) which runs at about four knots. Oh yes, in a pitch black night while travelling at an average boat speed of 25 knots in bad seas!

My dear friend Sidney Gavignet came off watch as we were entering the islands and started to chuckle when he said ‘being a skipper at times like these is a lot of fun isn't it?’ We made it through and actually made some nice gains on that three hour sched. Wild. That period of time will make it into the memoires some day.

We have a few nicked up bodies. Nothing major. Just some bumps and bruises dealt by these vicious boats. They get angry when they go fast. And the fleet has been fast since about five hours after the start.

PUMA Ocean racing heading east at sunset on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, showing the missing steering wheel. Image copyright Rick Deppe/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race.

We had to stop for a bit with steering problems yesterday, but as always the boys on board got it all up and running again within an hour or so. The problems included snapping a wheel in half when ploughing into the bottom of a pretty gnarly wave, and a mechanical issue below decks with the steering quadrant. A loss of about 15 miles over a couple hours, but a small price to pay now that we have peace of mind that it is all fixed. Funny thing with these boats. You build every part and piece as light as it can be--and sometimes things break... go figure.

And now we are finally out into the Pacific. Sounds nice until you look at a chart and see how large the Pacific Ocean really is. After leaving the cliffs of Japan we were escorted that morning by a very playful family of dolphins for quite some time. I guess the romantic in me thinks that is a sign. That our passage through the Pacific shall be swift and safe.

We shall see. There is a long way to go.

Volvo Ocean Race

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