Team Sanya have announced their official retirement from Leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race.
The first-ever Chinese entry sustained serious damage to the bow of their boat soon after leaving Alicante, Spain for Cape Town, South Africa.
Mike Sanderson, CEO and skipper of Team Sanya, elaborated on the events of Sunday November 6. 'We were very happy with our progress, managing the big breeze and waves very nicely. We were not pushing 100 per cent and had decided to throttle back a knot or so given the conditions; we felt we were in a comfortable zone.
'We suddenly felt a very odd lurch, like dragging the keel through soft mud. We could hear the noise of water coming into the bow. The watertight doors were already shut thankfully.
'We got everyone up and into lifejackets. For sure if the watertight doors had not been shut, we would have been sunk. We got the pumps going but they were not really making much difference. After a time, our situation stabilized and we suspended racing and headed to the nearest port.'
Sanderson says Team Sanya now face a major logistical challenge to get their boat to Cape Town and effect repairs before the in-port racing and the start of Leg 2 to Abu Dhabi.
'We need to take the time to do some serious thinking and planning, assessing the logistical options and making the right choices that get us back in the race as soon as possible. We need to repair the hull perfectly; a rush job is not an option.
'The repair is no small task. We have to chop out a large section of the boat and replace it – normally a two to three week job, we will have to shoehorn it into seven days. But this is the Volvo Ocean Race and we will do what we have to do to make it happen.'
'Our worst-case scenario is that we ship to Cape Town but are not able to fix it in time, meaning we are late starting from Cape Town and consequently miss the ship from our stop point during the second leg.'
Skipper Mike Sanderson from New Zealand. Team Sanya interviewed in Alicante after damage caused the crew to pull into the Spanish port of Motril, during leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean race 2011-12. - Tim Stonton/Volvo Ocean Race Click Here to view large photo
The Capetown stopover is scheduled from 25 November to 11 December with the Inport race being sailed on 10 December. The trip from Spain to Capetown by ship is approximately 5,500 nm making a voyage of 12 days, plus loading and unloading as well as rigging - meaning that Team Sanya has a window of about 18 days to effect repairs, pack the yacht and rig and get her aboard a ship - assuming that there is a scheduled voyage directly to Capetown around 27 November. View the full Volvo Ocean Race schedule by clicking here?nid=90446
In an unrelated incident, bowman Andy Meiklejohn sustained an injury during a sail change in the extremely rough conditions on the first night. Once ashore an assessment at the local hospital confirmed Meiklejohn had broken his foot.
Commenting on Meiklejohn’s injury, Sanderson said: 'Andy is now in the process of receiving medical advice and will be treated as soon as possible. He is an extremely pivotal team member and will be sorely missed while he is off. We will assess his recovery time and look at our options for a replacement should we need one.'
Sanderson summed up the disappointment that he and the entire Sanya team were feeling after the retirement and reiterated their commitment to return to racing as soon as possible.
'From a personal point of view I have never before retired from a Whitbread or Volvo leg and so it’s a pretty sad moment. We were very comfortable with how we were sailing and so it’s extremely disappointing for the guys.'
'As a team, we can still absolutely achieve everything we have set out to do – win some podium positions and take a few scalps from the other teams – and we fully intend to do that still.
'We have a great bunch of guys here and I have absolute confidence that we will get back on the race track as soon as we possibly can. For now it’s a full frenzy of activity to get our Sanya Lan race boat on a ship this Friday and turn a boat building job of two to three weeks into seven days!'
Team Sanya will release their shipping route and departure and arrival dates as soon as that information is confirmed.
The team’s intention is to get back in the race as quickly as possible.
Volvo Ocean Race website