Vestas replaces mast ahead of Newport leg in Volvo Ocean Race
The Volvo Ocean Race keeps knocking down Vestas 11th Hour Racing, and the joint American-Danish team keeps figuring out ways to make its way around the world.
Vestas 11th Hour Racing replaced its broken mast on Wednesday, two days after the 65-foot sloop arrived in Itajai, Brazil, following a journey of 1,200 nautical miles from the remote Falkland Islands under a jury rig.
The crew hopes to be back on water Thursday for a shakedown sail. It might not be ready for the in-port race on Friday, but it intends to be on the line Sunday for the start of Leg 8. There will be added motivation because the destination, Newport, Rhode Island, is the team's home port.
"It's certainly a frustrating experience," skipper Charlie Enright said Wednesday. "We feel when we've been sailing, we've done a pretty good job. Things out of our control have kept us from being competitively relevant on the overall leaderboard, but that hasn't shaken our resolve. There's a lot of race left to go and we're keen to make sure this unbelievable story ends on a good note."
Vestas 11th Hour Racing dismasted on March 30 some 100 miles off the Falkland Islands while it was in second place on Leg 7. The crew had to cut away the rigging, including the mainsail, to keep the broken mast from damaging the hull. It motored to the Falkland Islands to regroup and figure out a way to get the boat to Itajai.
The boat arrived in Brazil on Monday, giving the shore team enough time to replace the rigging.
"The Falkland Islands are one of the most remote places in the world," team leader Mark Towill said. "It really was a heroic effort by so many people and illustrates our collective resolve to continue to keep pushing despite the adversity we've faced."
This was the second major setback for the team led by Towill and Enright, both graduates of Brown University.
In late January, Vestas 11th Hour Racing collided with a fishing boat in the dark off Hong Kong near the end of Leg 4, killing one fisherman, sinking the fishing boat and damaging the yacht. Vestas 11th Hour Racing had to ship the boat to New Zealand to repair a big hole in its port bow, forcing it to miss two legs.
Then came the dismasting in rough conditions after a perilous transit through the harsh Southern Ocean.
Once in Port Stanley, Towill and Enright got the last two seats on the once-weekly flight from the Falkland Islands to the mainland to begin working on logistics for the repair once the boat was in Itajai.
The shore team arrived in Port Stanley and began working on essentially turning the 65-foot sloop into a motor boat. The boat still needed a rig for both power and stability, and the team found an old lamp post that had been repurposed as a mast for an Antarctica expedition boat. The jury rig was completed with two storm jibs and an upside down trysail.
The improvised mast was only 26 feet. The regular masts for the VOR 65s are just less than 100 feet.
The three sails allowed the delivery crew of five sailors to get to Itajaí without refueling.
"It was amazing work by the sailors who were in the Falklands who prepared the boat," Enright said.
Caring for the world's oceans is one of the teams' major goals, so it has pledged to remove more debris from the water and beaches than the weight of the rig and sails it had to cut away.
The two mishaps have left Vestas in sixth place in the seven-boat fleet.
Now the goal is to be first into Newport.
"It would be absolutely incredible," Towill said. "It's been such a collaborative team effort to get where we are."