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Southern Ocean Knocks Out Two Contenders

Rough weather in the Southern Ocean made for a wild ride in Leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011/2012, sending several teams ashore early for repairs and forcing Abu Dhabi and Team Sanya to retire from the leg altogether.

Team PUMA celebrates winning – and surviving – Leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011/2012 (credit: Paul Dodd/Volvo Ocean Race)

When Team PUMA Ocean Racing by Berg finally arrived on shore in Itajai, Brazil, Friday, they did so two days later than the original estimate – coming into port just 12 minutes ahead of Team Telefonica but well in advance of the rest of the boats.

The delay was a result of the notoriously rough Southern Ocean, which brought harrowing experiences to each of the six teams as they made their way around the southern hemisphere from New Zealand to Brazil.

Sanya and Abu Dhabi retire
Through to the end, it seemed the race was anyone's – if only the teams could make it there. Early in the race, Team Sanya encountered issues and retired to New Zealand for repairs; the team and their boat are being shipped ahead to Savannah, Georgia, for repairs, and are scheduled to rejoin the race in Leg 7, which leaves Miami, Florida, on May 20.

The same can't be said for Team Abu Dhabi, which has seen a string of bad luck on this leg. Already having repaired the hull once, Team Abu Dhabi undertook extreme measures while out at sea to repair further damage to the hull and ended up going offshore in Puerto Montt as well before retiring from the leg altogether. DHL has arranged for them to be brought via shipping vessel to Itajai to join the other teams before the next leg begins.

Telefonica recovers, Groupama dismasts
In more positive news, Team Telefonica recovered from their setback in order to place second on this leg. After attempting to repair delamination at sea while going 20 knots, the team decided to pull off at the remote Herschel Island to replace a panel and were able to get back on track after just 15 hours.

From there, it looked a tight race between Telefonica, Groupama, and PUMA – that is, until Groupama's sail snapped and the team had to dismast while off the coast of Brazil. The loss of their main sail and requisite jury rig afterward pushed Groupama into third place. The team’s spare mast is already on its way by air from Amsterdam, delivered by DHL.

CAMPER still fighting
CAMPER Emirates Team NZ likewise encountered damage early on, though they were able to make it to South America before pulling ashore. DHL expedited urgently needed parts by air and met the CAMPER team in Puerto Montt, Chile, so that the team could make repairs and carry on to Itajai to gain some much needed points.

Camper skipper Chris Nicholson helming in huge seas on Leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011/2012. (credit: Hamish Hooper/CAMPER ETNZ/Volvo)

The stopover lasted just five days, but it threw CAMPER into the rough seas known as the Furious Fifties, soaking the sailors from toe to stern as they tried to make up time while also avoiding a low-pressure system that could have spelled trouble for the time in the legendarily difficult passage around Cape Horn. As of April 11, the team had rounded Cape Horn, leaving the Southern ocean and its troubled waters behind them.

PUMA holds on for win
Team PUMA Ocean Racing by Berg eventually won out after an intense neck and neck heat, though they too were not without problems on this leg.

"I've never done such a tough offshore leg in my life," team Skipper Ken Read said moments after stepping ashore. "We ran out of food a day and a half ago and it's been pretty intense. Our hearts go out to the crews who have suffered damage. We know what that's like and it's even worse when it's in a place like the Southern Ocean."

For more photos and video footage of this exciting race, sail on over to our Facebook page, Ocean Race Backstage by DHLExternal Link.