As the fifth leg (Auckland, New Zealand to Itajai, Brazil) of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12 got underway, crews knew they were in for an epic struggle, not only against their fellow competitors, but mother nature…and their very own boats as well. On just the first night out, with building conditions ahead, PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG bowman Rome Kirby prophetically stated, “We just have to keep this thing [Mar Mostro] together and in one piece.” They did just that, and were the only boat to avoid breakdown.
That’s not to say that the crew of Mar Mostro had it any better than the rest of the fleet. Two injuries were sustained in the grueling conditions, on only the third day of the leg no less, that included a back strain to Bowman Casey Smith and shoulder dislocation to Helmsman Thomas Johanson. Both sailors continued on to complete the nearly 20-day leg.
In perhaps the most exciting leg of the race yet, PUMA Ocean Racing Powered by BERG had their work cut out for them – a multi-day, side-by-side duel with Groupama Sailing Team, who unfortunately broke their mast and had to finish under jury rig and then with Telefónica, who came from nearly 400 miles behind with an offshore course that brought them within a mile of PUMA. The boys aboard Mar Mostro were able to hold off the Spanish boat and clinch their first leg win of this edition of the race. Team Telefónica crossed the line a close second to PUMA in Leg 5, finishing just 12 minutes behind.
Two teams completed the leg after suffering damage – the Groupama Sailing Team and CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing retired from Leg 5 on April 4 due to hull damage. On April 10 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s yacht Azzam departed on a ship from Puerto Montt, Chile to Itajaí to rejoin the fleet. Team Sanya retired from Leg 5 and returned to New Zealand. The yacht was then shipped to Savannah, GA for repairs and sailed to Miami, FL and will rejoin the race.
This win puts PUMA Ocean Racing Powered by BERG within six points of the podium in overall standings. If they continue their mid-race rise (second place finishes in the Sanya In-Port Race, Leg 4 and Auckland In-Port race) they will be able to put pressure on all top three boats, CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand (with 119 points), Groupama Sailing Team(with 127) and overall race leader Telefónica (with 147 points).
Shannon Falcone will sail on board Mar Mostro for Leg 6 to Miami (The only U.S. stop of the race). Falcone takes the place of Smith, whose back injury during the last leg will need some rest and rehab – to be taken in Newport, RI. Helmsman Kelvin Harrap also rejoins the team, returning from injury after missing Leg 5.
“We were really lucky to have Shannon on ‘stand by’ specifically for a situation like this one,” said PUMA skipper Ken Read. “Losing Casey is a tough situation for our team, eased only by the fact that Shannon has a lot of experience with us – both in the last race and training this past summer. We are really happy that he is ready to go.”
The Itajai In-port action was followed by the start of Leg 6, from Itajai, 3,590 nautical miles to Miami on April 22 with an expected finish time somewhere around May 6. Check windcheckmagazine.com and Facebook/WindCheckMagazine for updates throughout the leg. There will be another race report in the June issue!