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White Water Rafting On Bucking Bronco

mardi 12 février 2002Information Volvo Ocean Race

But it’s a round the world yacht race ! Neal McDonald, skipper of ASSA ABLOY gave a vivid analogy of the boat being ’tossed around like a cork’ from his ’white water rafting trip from hell’ through very strong current, in a near gale. Meanwhile his wife Lisa, skipper of Amer Sports Too, was fighting the end of the Southern Ocean before rounding Cape Horn in near hurricane conditions, and had to shout for all hands on deck to make an urgent change to storm sails.

Following Neal’s unnerving experience, he then had to take a swim in freezing water of around 3 degrees Celsius to remove kelp from the keel. A relieved McDonald was winched from the water by some of the crew to dive below decks into a sleeping bag, to raise his body temperature before there was any risk of him becoming hypothermic.

Neal McDonald wrote later that it was certainly not his idea of a fun night out with concern gripping him for the safety of the boat and crew as much as it had in their wild ride through the Southern Ocean. "In the pitch black we could not see what we were about to get into, but below Rudi had found a spot where he felt we would have some good current flowing in our direction - generally a good thing. This time though we had bitten off a bit more than we could chew. The current suddenly shot up to 6 or 7 knots, the wind speed to 38 knots and we were on for a white water rafting trip from hell. The conditions kicked up ; sea conditions that were unimaginable. The boat bounced around like a bucking bronco, 18 tonnes of boat being tossed around like a cork. In the middle of this we had to tack - a terrifying procedure. I was on deck and in the pitch black I have to say I was just as concerned as I was in the Southern Ocean. The boat was banging and crashing around. I had no idea when it would end or what was going to break." Fortunately this terrifying ride only lasted for 30 minutes, before the tidal rip eventually abated and the seas and wind reduced to manageable proportions.

Below decks McDonald had time to study the relative positions of the fleet, and was pleased that things seemed to be going well against News Corp ; they remained neck and neck for a while and then disaster struck. It appeared from the radar and onboard computer, that ASSA ABLOY was losing speed and distance on the fleet, which the performance figures supported. This was also confirmed by the sail trimmers and urgent checks were made around the boat by torchlight. At the time, they were still leaping off enormous seas and eventually, there was just enough daylight and stability to see that they had caught a large amount of kelp around the keel. Three attempts at backdowns to sail away from the weed were to no avail and there was no alternative for McDonald, it was time for a swim. "I was livid having been up all night and wanted rid of this piece of weed. There was nothing else for it, but for someone to get in the water and wrestle with it. I looked round and I was by far the fastest and the most angry, so I ripped of my clothes, put on a harness and leapt in. I knew it would be cold but I had no idea just how cold until I hit the water. It took my breath away. I did not have to go that deep but I did wonder if the cold was going to beat me before I had achieved my goal. After two dives down with the boat jumping up and down in the heavy seaway and drifting fast with the main up in 30 knots, I eventually ripped off the whole forest."

Amer Sports One, had also suffered kelp problems, which was making for a busy watch, and Paul Cayard reported back, "We ended up doing four sail changes and a back down for kelp all in one four-hour watch. The kelp we got on the rudder was like a tree. We have stopped and backed down twice in the last 36 hours to clear kelp from our keel and rudder. We have backed down twice more this morning so far. Obviously a kelp cutter on any of the foils would easily pay for itself."

illbruck’s crew were still discussing the Southern Ocean with a ’would they, wouldn’t they do it again‚ view’ "There was a lot of talk onboard yesterday about ever again. Most people were asked and most would not answer straight. Most agreed that they would not in these same boats. It seems that even a few days dulls the memories," wrote Mark Christensen.

Tyco had a private air display from the Royal Air Force, "Finally clear of the Southern Ocean and heading north, the temperature is increasing already. We have just been buzzed by two RAF Harriers, flown out from the Falklands," wrote Kevin Shoebridge. The crew were delighted with the low pass, very impressive."

As SEB heads for the rendezvous‚ with the cargo ship "BBC Anglia" in Punta Arenas on 15th February, their minds have turned to chocolate eating competitions, "Chocolate trading has all but ceased but now the lesser value bars (Kit-Kat, Nuts, Picnic and Lion) have been reduced to fuel for the head to head eating competitions. Record Record #sailingrecord time is 54 seconds for a Kit-Kat by ’the mouth of the south’ Rodney Ardern," wrote Scott Beavis. There were also other advantages, "We discovered another benefit of having two hatches, more people can look out from below. An example of this was when Wombat (Anthony Merrington) was on the helm during a nasty hailstorm. Eleven of the other crewmembers watched with great amusement as golf ball sized hailstones pelted him."

The call from djuice after Cape Horn to pass outside Isla de los Estrados, not only kept her well out of a wet and windy ride, but also pulled her into fourth position, which she has hung on to.

There were vivid memories also for News Corp of the fast and very wet ride through the strong current, "The seas developed into a huge washing machine with massive tide ’over falls’. The poor old boat was launched into mid air and then crashed down. Water everywhere and the waves were like your favourite surf Surf #Surf beach. Of course all this in the middle of the night, a night that was as black as ’the inside of a cow’," wrote Ross Field. They had also noticed that ASSA ABLOY had unfortunately dropped back, but at that stage were not aware why, "ASSA ABLOY was right on our tail, two miles back and something obviously went wrong with them because they disappeared behind."

Volvo Ocean Race Position Report, Day 17, 0956 GMT

PS Yacht Latitude Longitude DTF CMG SMG TFHR DTL DTL-C ETA PO
- 1 ILBK 49 27.60S 058 57.04W 01759 051 12.5 246 0 0 19 FEB 02 29
- 2 AONE 51 10.04S 056 41.08W 01808 039 10.9 277 49 +9 19 FEB 02 25
- 3 TYCO 50 26.68S 059 53.44W 01828 047 11.8 243 69 +3 19 FEB 02 18
- 4 DJCE 51 42.32S 056 50.00W 01840 048 11.7 275 81 +6 19 FEB 02 15
- 5 NEWS 50 40.16S 060 14.08W 01847 051 11.9 243 88 +4 19 FEB 02 20
- 6 AART 50 40.00S 060 32.72W 01853 049 12.0 245 94 +2 19 FEB 02 18
- 7 ATOO 56 40.56S 067 51.64W 02297 088 11.9 272 538 +14 21 FEB 02 7
- 8 TSEB 55 30.68S 083 28.36W 02800 089 05.8 155 1041 +38 01 MAR 02 12

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