The Volvo Ocean Race has offered up many challenges thus far for the fleet, especially Team Sanya. The crew successfully completed Stage 1 of Leg 2 during the early morning hours and now skipper Mike Sanderson reflects on the ‘long and bumpy’ road with his focus shifting to the immediate challenge ahead.
The Sanya skipper gave a brief whoop from a spectator boat as his stand-in Richard Mason and a six-strong crew guided the recently repaired boat across the finishing line in light winds under a cloudless night sky in the safe haven port.
Sanderson had been required to fly to Abu Dhabi for ambassadorial duties at the recent stopover leaving the experienced Mason with the task of completing the stage from Madagascar after Sanya was forced to take refuge there to repair broken rigging.
He had rested as many of his crew for that trip as he could including Norwegian navigator Aksel Magdahl who was already hard at work last night plotting Leg 3 tactics.
'It’s been a long and bumpy road but Richard and the guys have done a great job,' said Sanderson.
'It was always going to be a tough and testing leg with the safe haven in front of us and so it’s proved to be.
'My task now is to make sure the guys are sharp and motivated to get back out there and compete.'
Team Sanya skipper Mike Sanderson contemplates - Tim Stonton/Volvo Ocean Race
The majority of Sanya’s shore crew were not awake last night to welcome home the boat – they were resting ready for an 6am start this morning to set to work on a list of minor repairs which will need to be completed by 0800 UTC on Sunday ready for the start of Leg 3 stage 2.
'I already know what my pep talk to the guys will be come Sunday morning but they are all professionals – they know what is needed.
'In a way we’re undertaking two legs in a row. We’ve not had a proper stopover and it’s certainly not been a restful time for us,' continued Sanderson. 'Nothing was as it was supposed to be.'
The 2005-06 winner on ABN Amro One still cannot help reflecting on what might have been after taking a 200 nautical mile lead in Leg 2 only to have the chance of big upset victory scuppered by a broken diagonal (D2).
The boat was forced to seek refuge in the nearest port of Madagascar, their hopes of joining in the action in Abu Dhabi in the New Year totally wrecked.
It was a second body blow for the Kiwi after his boat’s hull was holed by storm debris on the very first day of Leg 1 from Alicante on November 6, forcing them to pull out for repairs.
Sanderson, however, is quick to look on the brighter side and knows his job will be chiefly lifting his crew’s morale for a very challenging trip to his home port of Sanya in Hainan Province, China, racing against the rest of the six-strong fleet again.
They are expected to arrive there in the first week of February. With testing weather conditions, masses of rubbish in the sea and very busy shipping lanes along the way, Sanderson accepts that more problems could be just around the corner for his boat and indeed all of the fleet.
'A nice end for us will be to secure a solid result in Sanya after a decent run. Obviously, a win in the in-port race at home would be a dream come true but just finishing the leg will be a milestone after all we’ve been through.'
Volvo Ocean Race website