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No time to waste for Dongfeng - Volvo Ocean Race 2015
After the safe arrival of Dongfeng into Ushuaia, Argentina, just after sunrise this morning (local time), the team – both on and off the water – have wasted no time in taking on the mammoth task ahead which is to secure the rig and get going again to get to Itajai as soon as possible.

After clearing immigration – not so straightforward for our Chinese sailors Wolf and Black – the team got to it. Kevin Escoffier (aka Mr Fixit) was back at the top of the broken mast to further assess the damage so the team could make a game plan. The mast will be reduced to a two-spreader rig (the top of the mast broke above the third spreader) and a new second spreader for the starboard side is being fabricated locally with the design support of Southern Spars. A cruising mainsail replacement has been sourced locally and Martin Stromberg is in the process of cutting and reshaping it to fit, so it can be effectively used and reefed along with the existing smallest headsail, the J3. The forward water ballast tank will be used as a fuel tank to permit Dongfeng to be able to motor for significant hours if necessary to keep the average speed up.

It will take more than a good day’s work to get through the very long ‘to do’ list but, for now, the weather is on their side although stronger breeze is forecast for tonight and maybe snow tomorrow. The aim is depart local time tomorrow evening after the worst of the weather has gone through – and once the shore team have arrived after travelling all over South America to get around a general strike that has shut down flights and transport in Argentina, including Ushuaia, for the next 2 days. Bad timing!

The decision has been made to motor-sail to Itajai and not rejoin the race – although skipper Charles Caudrelier has yet to officially retire from the leg at this time, it is just a matter of protocol now. He will not relish this part of the administrative process and if there had been any other timely and effective way to rejoin the race and get to Brazil, he would have undoubtedly taken it. But even under motor-sail the delivery trip is expected to take around 10-12 days and then add the days needed to refit the boat in time for the start of Leg 6 to Newport, trying to rejoin the race which would mean returning to the point they started using the engine at the western entrance of the channel then sail south around Cape Horn would prove to be to risky, especially with rig and sails not fully fit for racing. It wasn’t safe to enter the Beagle Channel without the engine, even if it would have left more options for a racing departure.

So even now the clock is ticking to leave Ushuaia as soon as possible – with many variables ahead for the team, every hour really counts. The shore team of Graham Tourell, Guillaume Le Taud and Henry Woodhouse joined probably by Black and Wolf (due to immigration issues for the Chinese) and possibly one other existing crew will form the delivery crew. They will exit the Beagle Channel at the eastern end (opposite to where the boat came in) and head round the south east corner of Argentina, then head north for Itajai, a distance of approximately 2000 miles, but hopefully not more than 10 days.

Which replacement mast will be available has still yet to be fully confirmed, and the team are looking at the options for air cargo to get it to Itajai in sufficient time. All the decisions have to be made also in conjunction with Insurers to ensure that the cover in place is respected.

The Dongfeng Race Team has been ably, and kindly, supported by Ben Wright (from Team Mapfre’s shore team), local coastguard and officials and the team extend their sincere thanks to all their help and support. Dongfeng will show their appreciation by getting safely to Itajai and rejoining the Volvo Ocean Race and doing what they do best – racing!

Photo : Yann Riou / Dongfeng Race Team
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