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International 14 World Championship 2015: Boat speed first priority for Race 6 - Ben McGrane and James Hughes (GBR) going through the last checks of the replacement mast and all boat equipment prior to the crucial start of Race 6.
Kevin Escoffier gets to work as Dongfeng experience a problem once more with the pad eye during leg 3

Leg 3: Abu Dhabi to Sanya (4,670 nautical miles)

Days at sea: 11

Boat speed: 10 knots

Position in fleet: First

Distance to finish: 2237.5nm

Reports came in a few hours ago of a new problem with the aft padeye for Dongfeng – the same padeye that broke in dramatic fashion during Leg1. This padeye which controls the lines for the big masthead gennaker (aka MH0) has once again left the determined men of Dongfeng facing a compromise to their performance with new issues to this vital piece of deck hardware.

All the padeyes themselves across the fleet were replaced in Cape Town, but it seems the structure around the padeye itself is unable to take the normal operating loads required on it, and is now deformed onboard the Chinese boat. This means at the moment Dongfeng cannot use their biggest gennaker in the conditions they wish, and can’t sheet it (i.e. control the shape of the sail) in the way they would normally want to as they cannot load up this most-aft control point. Kevin Escoffier, working with the Dongfeng shore team and Nick Bice from the Volvo Ocean Race Boatyard team have been working on repair and reinforcement solutions but clearly its a setback for the Chinese team just as things were going so well for them.

From Charles earlier “We are not able to perform at 100%. We cannot use our MH0 in certain conditions and we cannot trim it perfectly at all. We will try to reinforce it [the padeye fixing] because if we use it now and it breaks we have no solution to fix it."

This particular sail, the MH0 [MastHead CodeZero] is used a lot in two different modes – upwind (sailing against the wind) in everything from 2 to 8 or so knots, and downwind (wind behind) in winds of up to 25+ knots of true speed. The windy downwind sailing might not happen again on this leg, but the light upwind stuff is happening now and will happen a lot up to Singapore. So getting Dongfeng back to 100% effectiveness represents a key moment for the determined men of Dongfeng Race Team on this 3rd leg of the Volvo Ocean Race.

Dongfeng is currently leading the fleet by 46 miles [at 1000 GMT], roughly midway between Sri Lanka and Sumatra/Indonesia, with the entrance to the Malacca Straits at just over 400 miles. With the wind lottery that that part of the course is likely to throw in to the game, Dongfeng is hoping to at least enter the zone with some its current advantage – but as Capey, the experienced Navigator on Brunel said yesterday “It’s likely all the boats will visually see each other again in the Malacca Straits”. That said, would you prefer to enter first or last? We hope that the repair can be done well enough on Dongfeng to allow the boat to at least sail at 100% again – because in the fleet, anything less than 100% and you are quickly out of the back door…

In the meantime, there is a tricky issue of how to cross a vast low pressure area with very light winds blocking the path to Malacca…Everything that is blue on this image is light winds, darker the colour, lighter the wind!

Photo : © Sam Greenfield / Volvo Ocean Race
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