Volvo Ocean Race: Busted rudder costs Team Sanya in Southern Ocean

One of Sanya’s rudders can be seen clearly in this shot from the Volvo Ocean Race, Leg 4 Finish

Team Sanya are working to repair damage to their Volvo Open 70 racing yacht after a broken windward rudder caused the aft compartment of the boat to take on water.

Sanya, who were leading Leg 5 from Auckland to Itajaí in Brazil at the time, reported the damage to Race Control in Alicante at 0800 UTC.

The team, skippered by the experienced New Zealander Mike Sanderson, said they were working through the aft deck hatch to pump water from the aft watertight compartment. There is no water leaking into the main compartment of the boat.

The reasons for the broken rudder were not immediately clear.

The damage occurred while the boat was doing between 20 and 25 knots in waves of between 2.5 and 3 metres.

Volvo Open 70s have two rudders and each boat also carries one extra emergency rudder. This rudder can be mounted either on the stern or through the same bearings as the original rudders.

The problem occurred on Thursday, Day 5 of Leg 5 from Auckland in New Zealand to Itajaí in Brazil.

Volvo Ocean Race, Leg 4 Finish - Team Sanya

At the time, Sanya held a slim lead over four other boats in the main pack with over 5,500 nautical miles to go to the finish line.

It is the third big setback suffered by Sanya since the start of the race. Shortly after leaving Alicante on Leg 1 they suffered major bow damage that meant they had to be shipped to Cape Town.

Then, while leading the fleet on Leg 2, a key piece of rigging broke, forcing them to head to Madagascar for repairs.

Latest estimates say the first boats will arrive in Itajaí on April 4.

Speed and excitement are building as the five front-runners fast gain pace on the back of a low-pressure sling-shot that could propel them into 24-hour record breaking territory.

Team Sanya are the southernmost boat and until the rudder issue occurred, held the lead according to distance to finish, but the lead has now been taken by Camper , just 0.5nm ahead of Groupama

At 0700 UTC the front five were relishing increasing westerly winds that ranged from 23 to 28 knots, which were building boat speeds to in excess of 24 knots in three to four metre waves.

Daryl Wislang driving at high speed in the Southern Ocean onboard CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand during leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Auckland, New Zealand to Itajai, Brazil. (Credit: Hamish Hooper/CAMPER ETNZ/Volvo Ocean Race)
Hamish Hooper/Camper ETNZ/Volvo Ocean Race©

It is the beginning of the pending Southern Ocean sleigh-ride, which has second-placed Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand’s Media Crew Member Hamish Hooper uncertain whether he is 'electrified or petrified'.

Fortunately, Camper co-skipper Stu Bannatyne, this his sixth Volvo, has offered some reassuring words.

'Without a doubt the best sailing in the world is downwind sailing in the Southern Ocean, no question about that,' he said. 'We are about to get a bit of it. Our tactics for sailing from here to Cape Horn -- be safe and go fast.'

Groupama MCM Yann Riou reported that the team was loving the chance to stretch their legs with a bit of downwind sailing, scoring some 'easy miles' under the power of their spinnaker in third place.

'As surprising as it may look, it is one of the first times since the start of the Volvo that we have the opportunity to face our competitors in these conditions, after half a round-the-world trip,' he said.

The weather situation could spell bad news for sixth-placed Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, who were hopeful the fleet would be holed up for longer while they played catch up after being forced back to port with damage just hours after the start

Team Telefonica see a whale come to the surface during leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Auckland, New Zealand to Itajai, Brazil. (Credit: Diego Fructuoso/Team Telefonica/Volvo Ocean Race)

At 0700 UTC the leaderboard Sanya were leading Camper by 5.9 nautical miles. Groupama were third, just 2.5 nm behind Camper, followed by Puma Ocean Racing Powered by BERG, 31 nm behind the leaders and Team Telefónica in fifth, 49 nm behind. Ian Walker´s Abu Dhabi trailed by 334 nm.

Camper have clocked up the most miles in the past 24-hours of the leading pack, with 367 nm and an average speed of 15.3. Abu Dhabi tops the tally so far with 413 nm, an average of 17.3 nm.

The distances are still shy of the existing record set by Ericsson 4 during the 2008-09 race, recording 596.6 nautical miles, but that could change over the coming days with the wind expected to build to more than 40 knots.

Earlier, Team Sanya had enjoyed being in the lead and the fleet leaders.

'It has been quite a pleasant start to our journey into the Southern Ocean, and although the temperature has dropped noticeably, it has been sunny and happy days,' wrote Sanya MCM Andrés Soriano on Thursday morning.

'We are currently the furthest boat south, and Mike (Sanderson) has just informed us that 'Our mums are going to be quite proud of us right now, the latest position report is in and we are the leaders!' Go the Sanya Lan!'

Sanya were posted as leaders at the 0100 UTC report on Thursday thanks to that southerly position. At 0400, Groupama were 10.2 nm behind them in terms of distance to finish, followed by Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand, Puma Ocean Racing powered by BERG and Team Telefónica.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, forced to return to Auckland for repairs on the first night, were just over 300 nm behind the leaders as they fight their way back in a much more northerly position.


Team Telefonica see Team Sanya on the horizon, during leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Auckland, New Zealand to Itajai, Brazil. (Credit: Diego Fructuoso/Team Telefonica/Volvo Ocean Race)


Eating on the go, skipper Ian Walker devours a bag of chocolate onboard Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing during leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Auckland, New Zealand to Itajai, Brazil. (Credit: Nick Dana/Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race)