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Volvo Ocean Race - Groundhog day for Puma Ocean Racing

by Ken Read on 8 Nov 2011
A wave crashes over the coachroof onboard PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG’s "Mar Mostro" during leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Alicante, Spain to Cape Town, South Africa Amory Ross/Puma Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race© http://www.puma.com/sailing
Volvo Ocean Race leg one is currently underway.

From Ken Read, Skipper of Puma Ocean Racing:


This feels like groundhog day, reminding me of the famous movie with Bill Murray. We leave Alicante in a frenzy of activity, settle into a first night beating (literally and figuratively), and now we’re outside the Med with all the boats pretty much lined up for a post-Med drag race in light and flukey conditions. The only difference between this race and the last race is that there are no real trade winds out here, so we are most likely going to look elsewhere for wind in order to get south.

The fact is that this really feels the same onboard as well. Of course there are several new characters here on this fine yacht, but all in all we are ready for this and ready to put some miles between us and the start. Our routines have begun and I think everyone is glad to have put the Mediterranean and its really crappy weather behind us.

First things first – I can’t imagine the hardship for the Abu Dhabi and Sanya teams. After all of that effort, then things come to a halt so quickly and abruptly. We do know that Abu Dhabi’s rig fell over the side as we were told by VOR shortly after. We still don’t know what happened to Sanya, but they haven’t been going anywhere on the position reports for the better part of a day. Maybe that means they are fixing something and re-joining the race… you probably know but I don’t!


When Abu Dhabi’s rig came down it was a bizarre scene. Night time. We had been beating in quite a bit of breeze. All five of the front runners where bunched up with Abu Dhabi just a mile or so behind when the wind went from 30 knots to eight under a famous point named Cabo de Gata. The problem is, all of the leftover seas from the 30 knots were still there, so it made for an ugly mixed thrashing. We reluctantly put up bigger sails, knowing that the wind was going to start up soon after the point again, but we had to keep moving and we very cautiously went ahead. The seas were straight into us and horrendous, wrapping around the point. We snapped the wind instruments off the top of our spar and didn’t have any instruments for a day and a half in plenty of wind (don’t know exactly how much, but combined with 3-4 meter breaking seas it was quite a opening act for this VOR). We could see the running lights on Abu Dhabi’s mast one moment, and they were gone the next. We assumed they broke something, but never in a million years would we have guessed something so serious.

Thankfully it sounds as if no one was hurt, but our hearts go out to the Abu Dhabi team who had worked so hard to get to leg one as a really solid group. And, I would be remiss if I didn’t chime in that there is officially a curse for winning the first In-Port Race in the Volvo, which Abu Dhabi did. Two races ago Ericsson won the first In-Port only to have keel ram problems and limped into Cape Horn. Last edition, Telefonica Blue won the first In-Port only to break part of their rudder assembly about an hour into the race and had to go in to port to fix it. Now Abu Dhabi. To all in this next VOR, don’t win the first In-Port Race!

So we are finally back in the ocean – what we were built for. All four boats remaining are surely a bit lonely without our other two broken companions, but we are in sight of each other this morning of day three, which I guess isn’t a shock to anyone. You can also feel that people are starting to get itchy about sailing their own leg for the next couple days because there will be tons of mine fields out here trying to get to Fernando de Noronha.

Wrapping up, I have to give my huge thanks to the entire Puma and Berg families for all of their support, as well as a massive thanks to our shore team and immediate families. All of the support has been amazing, and it was brutal to actually leave the dock. I received a last minute phone call from my daughter, Tory, after her mom woke her up back in Pomfret, Connecticut. For some reason she didn’t sound really thrilled to speak to me…ahh the life of a 15-year-old boarding school student at 6 am!

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