It’s not just the sailors who are feeling the effects of this three week marathon down to Cape Town.
The boats have hurtled across over 5,000 miles, straining, squeaking and pushed to their limits.
Harder, faster, more aggressively. In a one-design battle like this, that extra squeezing that extra 10% out of the boat could be the difference between winning and losing.
Then, at 1800 UTC last night, something finally snapped on Dongfeng Race Team.
“The padeye broke,” shouts Charles Caudrelier, decked head to toe in wet weather gear, icy winds whistling past his hood. “It’s the first time I’ve seen that.”
The padeye is a small but strong, stainless steel hardware fitting that holds huge loads from the Masthead Gennaker sail – and as gallons of salt water rushed into the cockpit, the team had to move quickly to get it under control.
And it sparked a chain reaction of damage. When it broke, the loads held in that line were released across the leeward deck – and caused significant damage, including an outrigger, pushpit, aft stanchions, starboard wheel and the Satcom C satellite antenna.
The crew managed to tie the line down to another fixing point. It’s a temporary solution, but it means that they haven’t had to stop racing.
In fact, they’ve only lost about five miles on leaders Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing – and still sit second in the fleet.
Kevin Escoffier explains. “So far we’re a little bit slower, because we aren’t set up as well as before.”
“But it’s not a high percentage. We’re thinking how we might be able to use the mast head and the A3 for the next few days.”
It just shows how fast and how fierce the sailors are pushing these boats. There’s no stopping, no rest until Cape Town.
“I can’t sleep for five minutes!” laughed Pascal Bidégorry, disturbed from his watch to help with the panic operation.
“I go to bed, and a line breaks!”
“It’s one of the strongest points on the boat. All the big sails are fixed on this point,” says Martin Strömberg. “It’s a bit disappointing, a bit scary.”