Team Brunel left New Zealand for Brazil at Tuesday evening 20.00 UTC, the 17th of March as the postponed fifth leg of the Volvo Ocean Race got three days behind schedule after the ferocious tropical cyclone Pam cut a swathe of destruction through the South Pacific. At that point the race village had already been taken down because of the high wind. But there was still a good crowd seeing the six teams off on their 6,776 nautical mile journey across the Southern Ocean which, in a little over 20 days, will take them to the Brazilian port of Itajai.
Waves as big as houses, icebergs, whales, freezing temperatures, strong westerly trade winds and a tropical cyclone are the ingredients that make the fifth leg the most challenging leg of the Volvo Ocean Race. And it is also the most severe and dangerous leg of the race. “This will be my eighth stab at the Southern Ocean,” says Bouwe Bekking. “These are great waters to sail, although the weather can be pretty extreme, with severe cold, strong winds and very high seas. And there is also the danger of whales, especially at night, when they are sleeping on the surface. Hopefully our boat, cruising at high speed, will be loud enough to wake them. Another hazard is the ice – large packs of ice floating just beneath the surface. Race management has set up so-called icegates, limiting south-bound courses, but there is no guarantee that the waters north of these gates will be free of ice. The best we can do is keep our eyes open and closely monitor water temperatures. A sharp, sudden drop in temperature is a definitive ice alert.”
It will also be Bekking’s eighth time round Cape Horn, but the prospect, even under the tough conditions that are to be expected, does not daunt this particular Horn veteran. “I’m not afraid. But I do have great respect for the southernmost tip of South America, where the weather can change at the drop of a hat.
You can find yourself in the middle of a storm, with winds of over 50 knots, in a matter of minutes.”
Rokas Milevičius, on the other hand, is in for his first time round the Horn. “I’m thrilled at the prospect of sailing round the Cape. I’m hoping for clear weather, so we can take some nice pictures. And they tell me that going round the Horn means whisky and cigars. It will be a defining moment, for sure, but all in all it’s just one small part of this leg. At the end of the day, it’s all about crossing the Southern Ocean safe and sound and getting to Itajai as fast as humanly possible.”
Team Brunel Director and former Whitbread Round the World Race skipper Gideon Messink knows what the teams are facing on this leg. “In the Southern Ocean you have to stay focused all the time. Which also means that you have to look after your clothing, because if your body loses too much warmth, you lose focus and coordination as well. And with everybody dressed in multiple layers of clothing, changing stations takes longer than during the warmer stages of the race. This is one leg that will cost a lot of energy. Which is why we are taking extra food.”
The twelfth edition of what used to be known as the Whitbread Round the World Race consists of nine legs and one 24 hour “pitstop” in the Dutch port of Scheveningen. The fleet of seven VO65 boats will finish late June, after approximately 38,739 nautical miles (68,500 kilometers), in Göteborg, Sweden. Bolidt is participating in the world’s toughest offshore race as official partner of the Dutch team Brunel. “The Volvo Ocean Race is the longest and toughest event in professional sport. The race showcases extraordinary stories of human accomplishment and adventure on an international level with all ingredients we at Bolidt value: teamwork, tactics, state of the art technology and constantly pushing boundaries”, says CEO and President of Bolidt Rientz W. Bol. During the stop-over in New Port and the pitstop in the port of Scheveningen Bolidt is welcoming new and existing valued relations to let them experience the ‘no limits’ possibilities of Bolidt.Ask a question
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