The 2005-6 Volvo Ocean Race was a series of disasters for the Spanish campaign. On day two of the first leg, from Vigo to Cape Town, movistar collided with a UFO, lost part of the rudder and a daggerboard and damaged keel ram supporting structures. After two weeks of repairs, in Portimao, Portugal, the boat was taken to Capetown, South Africa by cargo vessel.
During the second leg, the port hydraulic keel ram developed a fault; repairs at sea failed and the boat had to put into Albany to source new bots and finish the repairs. More problems were discovered in Wellington, raising questions about whether movistar was fit for a safe Southern Ocean crossing.
Those questions were answered when, near Cape Horn, water started flooding in around the keel box and the sailors, standing hip deep in water, feared that movistar would sink. Quick thinking by Chris Nicholson, who dived underwater and connected two emergency high capacity bilge pumps directly to the batteries, saved the boat. The leak was fixed, temporarily and movistar put into Ushuaia for more repairs.
During the Ushuaia stop, skipper Bouwe Bekking gave people the option of getting out. Technical shore manager Fred Barrett left as did crewman Peter 'Spike' Doreian, whose wife was pregnant. Mike Joubert was the most outspoken crewmember, during the Ushuaia meeting, claiming he had "Zero faith in the boat and in the people fixing it.", but he stayed on.
More repairs were carried out, when movistar finally reached Rio, with extra hands being brought in to help and advise, including Russell Bowler, president of designers Farr.
The next legs were almost problem free, at least where it came to the keel, but conditions had been clement. One suspects the crew might have had a few worries, when they read the forecast for the trans-Atlantic crossing, from New York to Portsmouth, but if they did nothing was said.
On the night of May 18, ABN AMRO Two reported that Hans Horrevoets had gone overboard. The nearest yachts, Pirates of the Caribbean, Brasil 1, movistar and Brunel all altered course and made their best speed to try to reach the scene.
Then came the tragic news that Hans had been recovered, but was dead and the four resumed racing. All had, however, suffered damage, with both Brunel and movistar reporting keel problems. Brunel limped on to Portsmouth, movistar's aft keel bearing collapsed and broke away from the hull allowing water to pour into the boat. The tables were turned, as ABN AMRO Two headed to the aid of the Spanish yacht.
With ABN AMRO Two standing by, the crew tried to stabilise the Volvo Open 70 by reducing sail, securing the canting keel with ropes and getting the water ingress under control, in the hope that they could reach Lands End. Bouwe Bekking describes what happened next. “This morning we gybed over on the other board to check how the keel would cope with that angle. Straight away we saw that the water intake nearly doubled and had to start the second emergency pump. That made me realise that we were actually in way bigger trouble.”
“We had survived for nearly 24 hours, but in light winds and the seas had calmed down, but with a forecast of 35 to 40 knots and peaking up to 50, I just wasn’t sure the boat would hold out. The breeze died to around six knots and now the boat was rocking hard as the seas became more confused. The keel pin started moving more as well, so in the end I took the tough decision. Ten lives at stake, with a similar number of families, the right call.”
The movistar crewmembers took to the liferaft and were transferred from that onto ABN AMRO Two. The Fisheries Patrol vessel HMS Mersey, which had been making all possible speed to the scene, arrived to escort the Volvo Open 70 to within sight of the Lizard. A short time afterwards, the frigate HNMLS Galen arrived to take Hans Horrevoets home and the movistar crew was taken ashore at Falmouth.
In the hope of a salvage operation, movistar was left with her generator running and Sat C communications system operational, so that she could be tracked for as long as possible.
When the weather abated, the movistar team sent out aircraft to search for the yacht, for several days, but the ill fated Volvo Open 70 was never seen again.
With movistar presumed to be at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, BYM News' Aldous Grenville-Crowther called team boss Pedro Campos and found him eager to do another Volvo Ocean race, in another Volvo Open 70.
Campos talked about the Spanish team's plans for the future and gave his views on the proposed new route, changes to the Volvo Open 70 design rules and crew manning.
What about rumours that have been circulating, saying that movistar has bought Brasil 1?
That is not true. Firstly, you have to understand that the company movistar does not own movistar Sailing Team; the company is a sponsor. I have a strong feeling that we should buy one of the existing Volvo Open 70s and have talked with both Pirates and Ericsson, but nothing can be decided until the sponsors agree. We are, presently, preparing a project proposal to present to them.
Given the first movistarís keel problems and internal structural failures, which ultimately led to its loss, would you want to change the Volvo Open 70 design, or the designer of a new movistar?
I believe that the basic Volvo Open 70 design has excellent potential, so I would not want to have a completely new design. I also believe that a one-design for the Volvo Ocean Race is right, but providing certain structural minimums are imposed. There should, for example, be a minimum weight for keel rams, so that designers and manufacturers are relieved of the responsibility of designing something as light as possible.
I would also like to see some laid down specifications for the strength of internal structures and a maximum bulb weight. Stipulating a maximum bulb weight would mean that the weight saved in the bulb could be put into the hull and, in my opinion, that would mean stronger, safer boats.
The Volvo Open 70 concept is good, but it needs the sort of changes to the design principles that I have outlined. As things are, there is too much pressure on designers to tempt them into taking an extreme road.
How do you feel about the proposed new course, with an Asian circuit?
I like it and I believe the sponsors will like it, because it will take the race to potential new markets. It does, of course, mean that we will have to look to other design changes, to suit some very different wind conditions.
It has been suggested that crew numbers should be reduced. Do you agree with this?
No, I do not think that is a good idea, I would like to see more crew, not less! I am not an ocean racer, so I have to rely on crew feed back, for that aspect of the event, and they say that to do the next Volvo Ocean Race, with a crew of only 10, would be very hard on people; a very high fatigue level.
For myself, I know that the crew level is already much too small for the in-port races. I would like a minimum crew of 13, for those events, and 16 would be much better. That is what is needed for safe and quick manoeuvring in confined spaces. I can speak about this, personally, because I have experience in such racing.
If you do enter the next Volvo Ocean Race, will you have the same crew?
The crew that took part in the last race will mainly stay together; they are well knitted together and we would want to do the next event with them.