Volvo Ocean Race - Sanderson and Team Sanya fight on

Team Sanya, skippered by Mike Sanderson from New Zealand at the start of leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean race 2011-12 from Alicante, Spain to Cape Town, South Africa
Volvo Ocean Race competitor Mike Sanderson holds two wins in three editions under his belt and as such, is keener on flying than floundering. This is particularly why it is so difficult for the New Zealander to come to terms with the calamity that struck his Team Sanya crew only hours into the start of Leg 1.

The race’s most recently formed team were forced to suspend racing around six hours into the 6,500 nautical mile sprint from Alicante, Spain, to Cape Town, South Africa, after discovering severe structural damage to the bow of their Volvo Open 70.

With the bow section flooding, Sanya had no option but to head for the nearest port – Motril, around 250 miles along the coast from Alicante. The damage to the boat was worse than they feared – and the team are now looking ahead to Cape Town.

'It’s quite a sad moment for me personally,' said Sanderson, 40, speaking to from his hotel in Alicante where the team had converged for a crisis meeting. 'It’s our first leg and we haven´t got there. There are lots of emotions there, it’s very sad.'

Team Sanya skipper Mike Sanderson
Tim Stonton/Volvo Ocean Race

Ever the fighter, Sanderson said his team was now '100 per cent focused' on getting their boat to Cape Town by any means possible in time to make the start of the second leg to Abu Dhabi.

'As it stands right now we are 100 per cent focused on getting to Cape Town,' said Sanderson, who won as skipper in 2005-06 on ABN AMRO ONE and as a young crewman in 1993-94 on New Zealand Endeavour.

'The worst case scenario is that we ship the boat to Cape Town and we aren’t able to fix it in time.'

'The experts we have spoken to have told us [the repair] is probably between a two to three week job. This is the Volvo Ocean Race and you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. At this stage, all we’re doing is going 100 per cent to make sure we can get to start in Cape Town.'

It was still unclear exactly what had caused the damage, which occurred when the boat was thirty nautical miles southeast of Motril. However Sanderson said he suspected the boat had hit something in the water as nightfall set on the fleet.

Team Sanya in the Mediterranean port of Motril assessing the state of their boat after hull damage forced them to suspend racing on Leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12
Team Sanya
'I have to believe looking at the way the damage is that we’ve hit something and that’s put a puncture wound in and that’s started peeling the boat away,' he added. 'It wasn’t until we hit the dock and got off that we knew we had a deal-breaker on our hands and that it would be very unlikely we would be continuing in this leg.'

'The last thing we want to be is quitters or reckless or unprofessional. We’re never going to be any of those things.'

'We have a great bunch of guys who 100 per cent believe in what we are doing here and they totally understand what the objectives are of this team. For ourselves we have to give it 150 per cent. We want to get back into this as soon as possible and be mixing it up as we have been doing already.'

Volvo Ocean Race website