Volvo Ocean Race - Camper leads as Sanya go back

David Swete and Cameron Dunn on watch at sunset, onboard Team Sanya during leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Auckland, New Zealand to Itajai, Brazil.
Andres Soriano/Team Sanya/Volvo Ocean Race
In the Volvo Ocean Race, Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand are leading the fleet across the Southern Ocean as Mike Sanderson turns Sanya round and heads back up the track towards New Zealand after shearing their starboard rudder earlier today. The team is expected to take between four and five days to reach New Zealand and they continue to assess their options in terms of how to get back in the race as quickly as possible.

'It’s unbelievable, I’m just lost for words,' Sanderson said shortly after making an assessment of the broken rudder, which also tore a hole in the back of the boat flooding the aft compartment.

'The rudder snapped in between the boat and the deck, which is just the worst thing that can happen because then it just leverages itself off the boat and leaves a pretty messy trail,' he said.

While Sanya limps away, at the head of the field, Camper (Chris Nicholson/AUS) has overhauled Groupama 4 (Franck Cammas/FRA) as the fleet runs downwind with a violent westerly depression, which is tracking slowly eastwards. The depression packs very strong, very violent and very cold winds from the deep south and the weather is likely to be at its worst when the fleet reaches the western ice limit, 238 nautical miles (nm) ahead.

Onboard the French boat, skipper Franck Cammas and his men have reduced sail to one reef in the mainsail and a small storm gennaker.

'We’re still a long way from the matter in hand and once we have 40-45 knots of breeze, the sea state will be all important. We will then have two reefs in the mainsail and the storm jib,' skipper Franck Cammas said. He added that the whole crew is tense, wondering how the boat will cope in the very strong conditions expected between today and Saturday.

At 1900 UTC tonight, Camper led Groupama by 4.2 nm with Puma Ocean Racing powered by Berg (Ken Read/USA) in third place, 18 nm off the lead. Telefónica (Iker Martínez/ESP) in fourth was averaging the highest speed of 24 knots, 36 nm off the lead.

Sixth placed Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR) at 42 degrees south and just under 300 nm in deficit, have accepted that it is going to be hard for them to catch the leaders, and are setting their own goals, working hard to maintain the intensity required to sail the boat fast.

'No longer will motivation be provided by the three-hourly position reports that help us judge how we are doing against the other teams. These will be meaningless with no boats in the near vicinity or in similar wind,' said Ian Walker.

The next five days promise extreme conditions leading almost to survival mode for the crews as they race towards the notorious Cape Horn.

'At the moment, we’re trying to go as fast as we can, but we’re not fussed about the positions, we’re just trying not to break anything. The Southern Ocean is quite a serious place really,' said Tom Addis, Puma’s navigator as the four leading boats headed into the back of the low pressure.

Volvo Ocean Race website