The six Volvo Ocean Race teams made a rapid return to tough offshore conditions encountering solid breezes and steep waves up to five metres soon after leaving Sanya on their way to Auckland, New Zealand on the second stage of Leg 4.
After a slow start in the lightest of zephyrs the breeze and sea state quickly ramped up enabling the boats to power their way towards the Strait of Luzon at speeds up to 20 knots.
Conditions on board have been brutal as the crews struggle to control their Volvo Open 70s and avoid teeth rattling crash landings off the backs of the monster waves.
On Ian Walker’s Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, Media Crew Member (MCM) Nick Dana said the constant slamming had made working conditions near impossible and caused several bouts of sea sickness.
“As we slowly began to poke our nose out from behind the lee of the island of Hainan, the breeze steadily increased along with the wave height,” he said in his latest report from the boat.
“Needless to say it has become nearly impossible to do anything at this point on board.
“The airdrops we are experiencing off the backs of these sharp waves make it difficult to keep your feet below you let alone a sail or a steering wheel in your hands.
“We’re currently blasting along at around 18-20 knots with a J4 and reef in.
“Down below looks like a war zone. Several people have been sick already, and the rest just keep swallowing.”
Conditions were light and fickle for the Leg 4 Stage 2 start at 2300 UTC on Sunday (0700 today in Sanya) all but wiping out the the staggered start sequence based on the results of the leg’s Stage 1 coastal race less than 24-hours previously.
Franck Cammas’ Groupama sailing team made the best of the early drifting to pick their way past race leaders Team Telefónica, skippered by Iker Martínez, and into the lead.
At 0700 UTC today Groupama had a lead of less than two miles over Chris Nicholson’s CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand, with third and fourth placed Telefónica and Abu Dhabi positioned furthest north just a couple of miles apart.
Having made good use of their rivals slow start, Ken Read’s PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG, who started almost 40 minutes after Telefónica, were this morning back in contention and up to fifth place at 0700 UTC.
Mike Sanderson’s Team Sanya lay in sixth having made a tactical break to the south of the main fleet. At 0700 UTC they were nine nautical miles off the lead and averaging 11 knots.