Volvo Ocean Race crews struggle with ‘war of attrition’ in China Sea

Meteorologists correctly predicted the upwind push to the east after leaving Sanya, China, on Sunday, would present the most difficult conditions yet in the 2014/15 round-the-world race.

Many Volvo Ocean Race hands conceded to being laid low by the “super-violent” conditions during Leg 4 of the around-the-world sailing race. (Ainhoa Sanchez/Getty Images)
Powered by automated translation

Crews struggled to find their sea legs and the fastest route around the northern tip of the Philippines on Tuesday night in what Volvo Ocean Race sailors hoped would be the final hours of a particularly punishing stretch of water.

Meteorologists correctly predicted the upwind push to the east after leaving Sanya, China, on Sunday, would present the most difficult conditions yet in the 2014/15 round-the-world race.

“Finally, we get what we came for: life at the extreme,” wrote Sam Davies, skipper of Team SCA.

Many hands conceded to being laid low by the “super-violent” conditions.

RELATED

“I’ve been too seasick to think about anything racing related for the last 24 hours,” wrote Sam Greenfield, the on-board reporter for race leaders Dongfeng. “You don’t have to throw up to be seasick.”

Amory Ross of Alvimedica wrote: “It’s an indescribable feeling of nausea that takes hold, a stomach churn so permanent that it makes you incapable of anything. The group universally feels like crap and it usually lasts until conditions improve.”

Davies said: “We have some crew members struggling to find their sea legs and so we are looking after them. If you get sick, you are allowed a Coke and ginger nuts, so there is a small bonus to the misery of seasickness.”

Ian Walker, skipper of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Azzam, said his first objective in Leg 4 was to get through the heavy weather in the South China Sea before the long stretch south-east to Auckland.

Matt Knighton, Azzam’s on-board reporter, said Walker refers to the area between Hainan Island and Luzon as “the Sea of Certain Breakage”, recalling that his boat Green Dragon was so battered in the passage that he stopped for repairs during the 2008/09 Volvo race.

“Most of the tactical choices that will determine the leg will happen after rounding the Philippines,” Knighton wrote. “Right now, it’s a war of attrition to see who will make it in one piece.”

Knighton described hour after hour of boats dropping off waves.

“As soon as there is 10 seconds of perceived calm water the boat launches off a wave long enough to make everything free-fall down below before slamming with a force that shakes the mast above. It reverberates through the entire hull.”

As night fell, Azzam was slightly behind Dongfeng, with the rest of the fleet within 15 nautical miles of the leaders.

Team Brunel on-board reporter Stefan Coppers wrote that one of his boat’s crew, three-time Volvo veteran Jan-Gerd Poortman, said the nine-month competition is not for the faint of heart. “If it were easy, everyone would do it,” Poortman said.

sports@thenational.ae

Follow us at our new home on Twitter @NatSportUAE