MAPFRE, the overall leader in the Volvo Ocean Race, has suspended racing to attend to damage to their mast track.
A section of the mast track came unglued from the mast five days ago, but until now the team has done a good job of limiting the impact of the damage on its performance through various jury-rig solutions.
But now, with 2,000 miles of racing left to the finish line in Itajaí, Brazil, skipper Xabi Fernández has elected to suspend racing as of 18:32:20 UTC, and just six miles west of Cape Horn, to make a more effective repair to both the mast track and mainsail. Three members of the shore team are in the area to assist the sailors.
Under the rules of the Volvo Ocean Race, a team that suspends racing may use its engine, get outside assistance or take on equipment to make a repair.
The penalty for suspending racing is that you must remain out of the race for a minimum of 12 hours, and return to the same location where you suspended before resuming the race. Given the speed of the other boats, this latest development has the potential to knock the overall race leader back significantly.
The forecast, however, works in MAPFRE’s favour. A ridge of high pressure is expected to slow the frontrunners and allow the trailing boats to catch up.
“A complete restart just after the Falklands,” is how leg leader Bouwe Bekking describes it.
Meanwhile, each of the other teams have now rounded Cape Horn, paying tribute to Scallywag’s John Fisher, who was lost overboard on Monday, as they did so.
Team Brunel led the way past the famed Cape, with Brunel skipper Bouwe Bekking saying it was an important stage to get past.
"Well, we are finally around that Cape Horn. It didn't come easy this leg, as everybody knows, it was a windy one,” he said.
“It’s like a mental milestone, you’re coming from the Southern Ocean and every mile you sail north the weather gets warmer and the finish of the race at The Hague is literally a step closer. It’s a magical picture and a highlight for every sailor…
“But even if we had a little celebration when we went past, we also had a toast to John Fisher, who we keep thinking about.”
There were similar sentiments from Charles Caudrelier, the skipper of Dongfeng Race Team.
“Of course the passage of Cape Horn is really nice, and usually everybody is very happy,” Caudrelier said. “But this time we can’t forget what happened to John Fisher on Scallywag, so we can’t be as happy as a normal passage.
“As in the mountains, people who are in the high peaks know the risks. It is much less common at sea, so we are much more shocked. It is a relief to have passed Cape Horn… But obviously, we think a lot about David (Witt) and his team and especially the family of John Fisher.”