Wednesday, 10 June 2009

VOR: Tiring and Trying Times for PUMA

PUMA Ocean Racing on leg 8 to Marstrand. Image copyright Rick Tomlinson/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Kate Fairclough

After suffering devastating damage to one of their key sails today and being forced into a lonely area of light winds, PUMA has slipped back from third to seventh place, losing 25 miles in just a matter of hours. With 327 miles to go until the finish of leg eight in Marstrand, Sweden, the PUMA Ocean Racing team are focussed on making some tactically winning moves to get themselves back in the race.

While there are only 32 miles separating the entire Volvo Ocean Race fleet, wind conditions across the course are very varied, due to a large low pressure system currently sitting over the top of the fleet. As the most westerly boat of the group, PUMA is currently sailing in just five knots of wind, while other teams have almost 20 knots. Following a fantastic morning during which PUMA made up valuable ground and was second fastest Volvo 70 round the ‘Delta Lloyd Gate Race’, a time trial round two marks just off the beach of Rotterdam, the Netherlands, the mood onboard is now somewhat different.

The PUMA Ocean Racing team are now battling their way up the coast of the Netherlands into the North Sea, and are expected to reach Marstrand, on the west coast of Sweden during the early hours of Thursday morning. No crew member has had more than a cat nap since the leg began from Galway, Ireland on Saturday and all are suffering from sleep deprivation. As expected, leg eight has been an especially mentally and tactically tough journey to date.

Skipper Ken Read (USA) commented: “We have been in a heavy-weight prize fight for days now. Today we sailed back into third and then amazingly blew up our big spinnaker when sailing downwind just after the Rotterdam loop. Following that, a chain reaction occurred and the culmination of it all is that we have made a complete split from the fleet and we are left hoping beyond hope that this new tactic works.

“After the chute exploded we had to put up smaller sails and in turn we had to sail a higher course than the rest of the fleet. We aren't allowed to carry extra big spinnakers and so when that sail goes you are in trouble. It just broke, right below the head patch, with absolutely no warning. So, we simply lost touch with the rest of the fleet by sailing higher. The wind then got lighter…then lighter…and before we knew it we were drifting. The center of the low had engulfed us. Our best hope is to try and punch through the center of the low and wait for the rest of the group to hit their light air eventually. We simply can't get back to where the rest of the fleet is so drastic action is unfortunately required.

“We have had our fair share of tough breaks on this boat and they have routinely occurred at some pretty inopportune times. The team always rallies to make the best of all situations and we typically have our best legs at that time. We have to try and make the best of this, take it in our stride. Sure, the team is down right now but we all realize that we can't quit and need to press on. Sometimes it just doesn't go your way. Today may have been one of those days for us, as time will only tell.”

PUMA Ocean Racing
Volvo Ocean Race

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