The crew jumped into action, immediately turning the boat downwind to save the mast and the rest of their leg. They secured the rig with halyards to stabilize it and then turned their attention to the large jib, which was dragging in the water. With great effort they retrieved the sail intact and investigated the reason for the breakage.
"We did a rig check and all seems to be all right," said their frustrated skipper Bouwe BEKKING (NED). "In the meantime I had been on the phone with our shore manager, to go over eventual scenarios, regarding spare pieces. By then I knew that the actual forestay hanger was broken, this is a 30 mm stainless steel piece, and it had snapped right through the middle.
"Everybody is extremely disappointed, but we all having the same fighting spirit. We started well behind, and actually became first on the leader board yesterday, a huge reward for 21 days of working extremely hard. Of course this is a setback, but there is still a long way to go, we will not give up!"
Telefonica Blue will carry onto Rio under jury rig, albeit at a slower pace than they are used to. Unfortunately for the team, while they were securing the boat they headed further towards the light winds of the high pressure system. Simon FISHER (GBR), strategist/helmsman onboard explained, "Turning downwind to make repairs has only made the situation worse. We are back upwind again now though and battling to get back to the pressure. This luckily is slowly coming back to us but has taken most of the morning. Quite frankly it hasn't been our day."
Despite their bad luck, the blue Spanish boat is still in the lead as the southern-most yacht and the closest to the ice gate and next scoring gate at Cape Horn. PUMA is in second at 13:00 UTC, 71nm to the northeast of third placed Ericsson 4.
A lurking low pressure to the east of the fleet is at the forefront of all the navigators' minds. But it was Wouter VERBRAAK (NED), navigator onboard Green Dragon who broke ranks and spoke about his battle plan to get through the heavy weather. After working with famous French offshore sailor Francis JOYON, he picked up a bit of advice about how to deal with this situation.
"You have to go through the centre," explained VERBRAAK. "So if you are following our track, it is no madness, on the contrary we are aiming for the very eye of it, on purpose!
"Sounds simple maybe, but let me tell you, we are preparing the boat and ourselves for war in the next 24 hours. Everybody is checking his personal gear, the stack is secured extra well, the generator is being tested, we have made plenty of water and have lots of snacks at hand. This is not going to be a lot of fun.
"Down in the nav station Ian [skipper Ian WALKER (GBR)] and myself are monitoring the development of the low. The strategy will only work if we hit the centre perfectly, so we are tracking its progress with satellite pictures and grib files. Of course the bloody thing keeps changing its mind all the time, but we have him locked in our sight."
Green Dragon has lost 45nm on the leaders in the past 24 hours but that might not be as bad as it sounds with their current action plan and is certainly not the biggest loss. Ericsson 3 has dropped 80nm in the past day and is still the northern most yacht after their brave decision at the scoring gate to head north-east. The consequence of this move is that they are the furthest from the finish in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil making them last by 186nm. This bottom spot could be short-lived though, as they have the potential to pass over the top of the fleet with good speed if the predicted weather is to be believed.
Leg Five Day 21: 1300 UTC Volvo Ocean Race Positions
(boat name/country/skipper/nationality/distance to finish)
Telefónica Blue ESP, Bouwe BEKKING (NED) DTF 6505nm
PUMA Racing Team USA, Ken READ (USA) + 31
Ericsson 4 SWE, Torben GRAEL (BRA) +45
Green Dragon IRL/CHI, Ian WALKER (GBR) +99
Ericsson 3 SWE, Magnus OLSSON (SWE) +186
Delta Lloyd IRL, Roberto BERMUDEZ (ESP) DNS
Telefónica Black ESP, Fernando ECHAVARRI (ESP) DNS
Team Russia RUS, Andreas HANAKAMP (AUT) DNS
Volvo Ocean Race Leaderboard - Provisional
(After leg five, scoring gate one)
1. Ericsson 4, skipper Torben GRAEL (BRA), 53 points
2. Telefónica Blue, skipper Bouwe BEKKING (NED), 44.5 points
3. PUMA, skipper Ken READ (USA), 44 points
4. Green Dragon, skipper Ian WALKER (GBR), 32 points
5. Ericsson 3, skipper Magnus OLSSON (SWE), 31.5 points
6. Telefónica Black, skipper Fernando ECHAVARRI (ESP), 21 points
7. Delta Lloyd, skipper Roberto BERMUDEZ (ESP), 12 points
8. Team Russia, skipper Andreas HANAKAMP (AUT), 10.5 points
Go here for all the news on the Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09
Volvo Ocean Race - www.volvooceanrace.org