Time to call it quits

Text by Jon Bramley
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Time to call it quits Text by Jon Bramley
 
Tough decisions. It's part and parcel of being a Volvo Ocean Race skipper.

But even so, as Dongfeng Race Team announced late tonight that they plan to retire from Leg 5 after breaking their mast in the Southern Ocean on Monday morning, it will have been a bitter pill for Charles Caudrelier to swallow.

The French skipper had considered attempting to re-join the 6,776nm leg from Auckland to Itajaí after successfully nursing his red boat to Ushuaia, Argentina earlier in the day.

But tonight a statement from the team read: “The decision has been made to motor-sail to Itajaí and not rejoin the race.

"Although skipper Charles has yet to officially retire from the leg at this time, it is just a matter of protocol now."

“He will not relish this part of the administrative process and if there had been any other timely and effective way to rejoin the race and get to Brazil, he would have undoubtedly taken it.

“But even under motor-sail the delivery trip is expected to take around 10-12 days and then add the days needed to refit the boat in time for the start of Leg 6 to Newport.

“Trying to rejoin the race which would mean returning to the point they started using the engine at the western entrance of the Beagle Channel then sail south around Cape Horn would prove to be too risky, especially with rig and sails not fully fit for racing.

“It wasn’t safe to enter the Beagle Channel without the engine, even if it would have left more options for a racing departure.”

By motoring to Itajaí, they will buy some time to make the repairs ready to start Leg 6 to Newport. The fleet is due to depart on April 19.

But the decision means that the Chinese team, who were joint leaders with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing at the start of the leg, will collect eight points for a Did Not Finish result.

The mast will be reduced to a two-spreader rig (the top of the mast broke above the third spreader) and a new second spreader for the starboard side is being fabricated locally with the design support of Southern Spars.

A cruising mainsail replacement has been sourced locally.

Swedish sailor Martin Stromberg is in the process of cutting and reshaping it to fit, so it can be effectively used and reefed along with the existing smallest headsail, the J3.

The forward water ballast tank will be used as a fuel tank to permit Dongfeng to be able to motor for significant hours if necessary to keep the average speed up.