Volvo Ocean Race: Conditions my worst Southern Ocean nightmare

Tony Mutter weathering the storm in his aquaclava, onboard Puma Ocean Racing during leg 8 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Lisbon, Portugal to Lorient, France.

Camper MCM, Hamish Hooper has described the conditions in the final night of Leg 8 of the Volvo Ocean Race, as 'my worst Southern Ocean nightmare'.

huge walls of white water crash over the deck onboard CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand during leg 8 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Lisbon, Portugal to Lorient, France. (Credit: Hamish Hooper/CAMPER ETNZ/Volvo Ocean Race)
Hamish Hooper/Camper ETNZ/Volvo Ocean Race©
Speaking via Livestream with Volvo Ocean Race media, Hooper said that when he was on deck earlier in the day 'the guys were sailing the boat as fast as possible, and chasing the 24hr record. It was pretty exhilarating!

'I went down below and did a few things, and went back on deck and all of a sudden it was like I was in my worst nightmare in the Southern Ocean again. There were huge waves, the seas were just seething, and it was a hell of a sight. It was an instant switch into survival mode.

'Then we had to gybe the boat, which this crew can do with their eyes shut. But last night it took all the seamanship, and all the experience they could muster just to change the direction of the boat. It was quite a nerve wracking time.

'The last Sked wasn't a good one and we lost about five miles to Groupama. That's what bought on the sail change, and we need to reel them in. There is still quite a long way to go to the finish (200nm at that point). Breakages can still occur and anything can happen.

'Again the guys have got the foot to the floor and are doing anything they can to chase down Groupama, and keep ahead of the rest of them, who are very close behind.

A drenched Will Oxley steps down below after being on deck, onboard CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand during leg 8 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Lisbon, Portugal to Lorient, France. (Credit: Hamish Hooper/CAMPER ETNZ/Volvo Ocean Race)
Hamish Hooper/Camper ETNZ/Volvo Ocean Race©


Puma, it was a more measured view from skipper Ken Read.

'It's still a bit of a bucking bronco, right now. We have got plenty of breeze, it is about 35kts right now. We're going downwind through some pretty bouncy waves that the Bay of Biscay is servings up for us, so it is pretty full on.



Last night wasn't that bad, we have spent plenty of worse nights. The last couple of days have been lousy. We have known this was coming and the anticipation of lousy weather with no other option, and there was no other way to get to the finish without sailing into the low (pressure zone).

Tom Addis and Ken Read contemplate weather and strategy from the nav station. Onboard PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG during leg 7 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Miami, USA to Lisbon, Portugal. (Credit: Amory Ross/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race)
'It doesn't make sense for a lot of lay people out there - 'Why would you ever do something as stupid as sail into a low in the bay of Biscay?' But that is what we do, We chase storms, we flop ourselves on the right side of them, and off we go.

'We gybed around the shift, we were the second or third boat to gybe. We gybed when the shift hit us, or 15-20 minutes later. The reason it took 15-20 minutes is that it is hard to gybe in 42kts of breeze. Especially when you are stacked up on one side of the boat.

'We actually put a couple of reefs in for the gybe, so we didn't break our battens.

'It's not like you're in a Laser and you can just snap off a little roll gybe, and continue on down the track. There is a lot to be done

'As soon as the shift hit us, we jumped right into it and we gybed 15-20 minutes later.'

Looking at their chances of catching Groupama, Read felt they had a chance of catching the French yacht 'if we can make the finish from here', implying that they would have to be able to reach Lorient without gybing and on a hot sailing angle.'

Similarly, with Camper.

At the time of the interview, Read was unaware of what had befallen Telefonica, except that they could see from their track that there were problems on board.