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Volvo Ocean Race: MAPFRE closer to the Equator - Spaniard Willy Altadill & injured right hand
After partially overcoming a problem with the data transmission, which made the team to sail for nearly four days without any weather information and almost without communication, the Spanish team prepares to cross the Equator

Pacific Ocean, 19th February 2015

After leaving Sanya (China) towards Auckland (New Zealand), "MAPFRE" has overcome all kinds of obstacles in the North Pacific. Now the Spaniards fight in the Doldrums, where they seek a new opportunity to reach the podium.

During the first 24 hours the waves - which measured three and four meters –and the wind –up to 25 knots- pushed the crew to the limit. The team, which was in third position, headed towards the Luzon Strait in "a long and hard upwind in which the fleet will have several position changes" as Rafa Trujillo said.

The Olympic medallist was right, and during the following hours the situation became even more extreme. "Being on board 'MAPFRE' is like being on top of a rodeo bull that keeps jumping. We’ve been sailing at times against 30 knots of wind and 25 at others. The Spanish boat is in good shape and with good speed", said Vignale.

In the Luzon Strait the fleet divided into two groups and "MAPFRE" decided to sail south, near the Philippine coast. From there, the Spaniards headed towards the northeast in the search for wind that would help them head South.

"MAPFRE" maintained an intense hand in hand with "Abu Dhabi" and "Dongfeng". Xabi Fernández’s crew remained in the lead pack and toyed with the first position as they approached the north trade winds.

During the fifth day of racing the outrigger base broke and it went through the boat. Xabi, "Ñeti" and Willy led the repair covering the hole and fixing the outrigger and its base assembling a structure that could hold its own weight.

To this situation we must also add that Willy Altadill hit his right hand with a block during a sail change, causing him a strong swelling and mild pain. "Ñeti" contacted the race doctor, Pablo Díaz-Munio, for, after an assessment, confirm the diagnosis. Finally there was no choice but to immobilise the hand.

When everything seemed to improve, the reporter on board wrote: "The padeye which holds one of the outrigger ropes broke causing it to snap in half. Carlos ran to the bow to repair it while Rob gave indications from the wheel to maintain the boat speed". But this wouldn’t be the main concern on board.

Sailing "blind"
On the night of February 15th "MAPFRE" reported problems in the data transmission system that prevented them from receiving the weather forecasts provided to the fleet by the organization, as well as not being able to make telephone calls and send pictures. A race against time began on board and they finally managed to repair one of the antennas after nearly 85 hours with almost no connection to the outside world. The Race Control centre monitored at all times the position and telemetry data of "MAPFRE", besides staying in touch with them via short messages by Sat-C. The President of MAPFRE, Antonio Huertas, sent a message of support to the Spanish boat considering their difficult situation.

After a week fighting the unexpected, "MAPFRE" goes deep into the Doldrums, where is likely that the fleet will compress again and the Spanish crew will take the opportunity to try to break into the lead again. Auckland is 2,500 miles away.

Photo : © Francisco Vignale/MAPFRE/Volvo Ocean Race
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