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Vicious weather punishing crews in Leg 5 of Volvo Ocean Race

The racing teams all knew they would be challenged by crossing the expanse between New Zealand and Cape Horn, with high winds and icy conditions, but Mother Nature has been truly testing the sailors so far on Leg 5.

The fifth leg of the Volvo Ocean Race launched from Auckland’s harbor on March 18, with the route stretching 6,700 nautical miles (NM) across the Southern Ocean and then up the eastern coast of South America to Itajaí, Brazil. Weather and sea conditions in the region are notorious, and race organizers even created an Ice Exclusion Zone along the southern perimeter of the course, to keep teams out of dangerous ice floes.

Even expecting these dangerous prospects, the six competing teams were unprepared for the ferocity of the weather thus far. Only 40 NM from Auckland, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing turned around and headed in for quick repairs to a damaged hull. Less than 24 hours later, they were chasing the rest of the pack through fierce storms.

The fleet leaders also faced challenging seas. PUMA Ocean Racing Powered by BERG reported its latest addition to the crew, Thomas Johansen, had been swept aside by a powerful wave, and dislocated his shoulder.
The boat’s medic managed to set the injury thanks to a telephone consultation with the crew’s land-based doctor.
Nearby, rough seas caused repeated shoulder injuries on Groupama’s helmsman Phil Harmer, forcing him to go on light duties and might require him to sit out the next leg once the fleet makes Itajaí.

The weather has taken a hefty toll on both men and equipment. The fleet had been averaging a breakneck 20 knots for the first four days when one of Team Sanya’s rudders snapped off. The crew was forced to hastily patch the hole, attach an emergency rudder and turn back to New Zealand for repairs.

CAMPER also announced that they are heading in for repairs to the hull once they reach the coast of Chile, anticipating a three day repairs stop before continuing the race. The overall race leaders, Telefónica, have also stated their intention to dock in Argentina for repairs to the bow, before finishing the race.

Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi is still working to catch up the more than 1,000 NM distance to the leaders where Groupama is followed by PUMA about 30 NM behind, and then Telefónica is in third place, almost 300 NM further back.

The fleet is expected to arrive in Itajaí around April 4.