(December 27, 2017; Leg 3, Day 18) – All seven boats in the Volvo Ocean Race fleet have now finished in Melbourne, with team AkzoNobel ghosting through Port Phillip Bay in near calm conditions to cross the line just before 10:30am on Thursday morning (local time). Team AkzoNoble had to battle calm winds on Thursday morning in Melbourne en route to a slow finish.
It was a frustrating end to a frustrating leg that saw the team fall behind the rest of the fleet after damaging their mast track during a gybe in heavy weather Southern Ocean conditions.
The international crew of seven men and two women led by Netherlands yachtsman Simeon Tienpont finished the leg in seventh place, well behind the rest of the fleet, after badly damaging the mast and mainsail of their Volvo Ocean 65 racing yacht in strong winds and big seas four days after leaving Cape Town.
The damage occurred when the boat capsized during a “gybe” turn in 45 knots of wind and mountainous waves on December 14 deep in the Southern Ocean close to the Volvo Ocean Race’s Antarctic Ice Exclusion Zone.
The impact of the wipe-out wrenched large sections of the mainsail track off the back face of the mast, broke several of the horizontal carbon battens that help give the sail its aerodynamic shape in the wind, as well as puncturing the mainsail itself in several places.
After managing to wrestle the massive sail down to the deck – no easy feat given the storm conditions prevailing at the time – the team AkzoNobel sailors were able to continue racing, albeit at half-speed using only the boat’s forward sails, as they assessed their options to effect repairs to get them back up to full pace as quickly as possible.
In the end it took three days and two attempts to re-attach the mainsail track to the mast using strong epoxy glue before, on December 17, while holding their collective breath the crew gingerly re-hoisted the newly repaired mainsail.
Within minutes of it becoming apparent that the second repair was going to hold the sailors had the boat ripping along at speeds approaching 30 knots (55 kilometers per hour) as they set about chasing down the rest of the seven-boat fleet now several hundred miles ahead.
In the time it took to jury-rig a repair, the team fell several hundred miles behind the leaders and into a less favourable weather pattern for the rest of the leg, resulting in the late finish.
Despite giving their all for the rest of the leg, hopes of a fairy tale comeback quickly faded on December 21 after light winds from an easterly expanding high pressure system slowed the team’s progress dramatically.
As well as putting paid to any chance of making it to Melbourne in time for Christmas Day, the slowdown also ate into the time available for full repairs to be carried out by the shore team before the start of Leg 4 to Hong Kong on January 2 2018.
Team AkzoNobel crossed the Leg 3 finish line in Melbourne at 10:24:45 Australian Eastern Daylight Time on December 28 (23:24:45 UTC on December 27 / 00:24:45 CET on December 28) 17 days, 11 hours, 24 minutes after leaving Cape Town, South Africa on December 10.
The seventh-place result is a psychological blow for the crew who had been mixing it comfortably with the leading pack before their ill-fated gybe and had hoped to secure a podium result on the double points Southern Ocean leg.
“We are disappointed, there is no denying it,” said skipper Tienpont. “We did four days of racing and fourteen days of delivering the boat in time to get the repairs done. That’s the way it goes sometimes and we all know we now need to get our rest while the shore crew do what they need to do to get the boat back in shape, so that we are ready for Leg 4.”
“You can’t hide the fact that we had hoped for a lot more on this leg and we haven’t delivered it,” he said. “The important thing now is to take what we have learned and do better in the next leg. The gybe was a one-off incident – a mistake that we won’t make again – and I take from it that we will be able to race competitively going forward.”
The boat was met on shore in Melbourne by members of the team AkzoNobel technical shore team, staff from the Volvo Ocean Race’s Boatyard service facility, and expert technicians from mast manufacturer Southern Spars who together will manage the un-stepping of the boat’s mast and subsequent repair – a process expected to take up to three days.
Leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18, a complex 11,000-kilometer northerly passage from Melbourne to Hong Kong, is scheduled to begin on Tuesday January 2, meaning the weary team AkzoNobel sailors will have just four days recovery time ashore before they are back in competitive action once again.
To see Leg 3 crew lists… click here.
Leg 3 – Position Report (21:15 UTC)
1. MAPFRE (ESP), Xabi Fernández (ESP), Finished, Elapsed Time 14d 04:07:21
2. Dongfeng Race Team (CHN), Charles Caudrelier (FRA), Finished, Elapsed Time 14d 08:10:16
3. Vestas 11th Hour Racing (DEN/USA), Charlie Enright (USA), Finished, Elapsed Time 14d 09:52:11
4. Team Brunel (NED), Bouwe Bekking (NED), Finished, Elapsed Time 14d 11:36:27
5. Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag (HKG), David Witt (AUS), Finished, Elapsed Time 15d 13:06:31
6. Turn the Tide on Plastic (POR), Dee Caffari (GBR), Finished, Elapsed Time 15d 15:52:50
7. Team AkzoNobel (NED), Simeon Tienpont (NED), Finished, Elapsed Time 17d 11:24:45
Overall Results (after 3 of 11 legs)
1. MAPFRE (ESP), Xabi Fernández (ESP), 29 points
2. Dongfeng Race Team (CHN), Charles Caudrelier (FRA), 23
3. Vestas 11th Hour Racing (DEN/USA), Charlie Enright (USA), 23
4. Team Brunel (NED), Bouwe Bekking (NED), 14
5. Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag (HKG), David Witt (AUS), 11
6. Team AkzoNobel (NED), Simeon Tienpont (NED), 9
7. Turn the Tide on Plastic (POR), Dee Caffari (GBR), 6
2017-18 Edition: Entered Teams – Skippers
• Team AkzoNobel (NED), Simeon Tienpont (NED)
• Dongfeng Race Team (CHN), Charles Caudrelier (FRA)
• MAPFRE (ESP), Xabi Fernández (ESP)
• Vestas 11th Hour Racing (DEN/USA), Charlie Enright (USA)
• Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag (HKG), David Witt (AUS)
• Turn the Tide on Plastic (POR), Dee Caffari (GBR)
• Team Brunel (NED), Bouwe Bekking (NED)
Background: Racing the one design Volvo Ocean 65, the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race begins in Alicante, Spain on October 22 2017 with the final finish in The Hague, Netherlands on June 30 2018. In total, the 11-leg race will visit 12 cities in six continents: Alicante, Lisbon, Cape Town, Melbourne, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Auckland, Itajaí, Newport, Cardiff, Gothenburg, and The Hague. A maximum of eight teams will compete.
Source: Volvo Ocean Race