Just a week into the eight-month, 'round-the-world sailing ordeal known as the Volvo Ocean Race, two of the top entries are in dry dock getting major repairs while the rest of the seven-boat fleet storms south toward the tip of Africa.
Black Pearl, the lone U.S. entry, skippered by Olympian Paul Cayard, dropped out of the leg from Spain to Cape Town, South Africa, after taking a pounding in strong winds early last week. Cayard reported from Cascais, Portugal, that a main internal bulkhead buckled on his carbon-fiber 70-footer and part of the structure supporting the keel broke in big seas and winds over 50 knots.
The damage is so severe, Black Pearl must be air-shipped to Cape Town to be ready in time for in-port races scheduled there on Dec. 26. The same fate may befall another top contender, the Spanish boat Movistar, which destroyed a rudder and underwater fin either in a collision with a submerged obstacle or from the force of smashing into big waves during the storms.
Movistar's shore crew is rushing to make repairs in Portimao, Portugal, but if they can't relaunch by Dec. 1, they too must ship the boat south for the in-port races and the start of the next leg from Cape Town to Australia Jan. 2, said syndicate chief Pedro Campos.
A third damaged entry, the Australian boat Brunel-Sunergy, resumed racing after stopping in Spain to repair damage to a fitting that holds the boom to the mast. Brunel trails the leaders by about 800 miles.
The four boats at the top of the fleet were bunched within 100 miles of each other with 4,400 miles to go, led by Dutch entry ABN-Amro 1.
-- Angus Phillips