High risk operation in the middle of the Atlantic!

© Amory Ross/ Puma Ocean Racing
© Amory Ross / Puma Ocean Racing

This is it! after forced vacation on Tristan da Cunha, the cargo ship should arrive today from Cape Town. Getting the boat on the cargo will be a nerveracking experience for the team for sure!

Skipper Ken Read says the tricky operation to hoist the team’s dismasted Volvo Open 70 on to a cargo ship scheduled to arrive from Cape Town on Friday will be fraught with risk and will require perfect timing to avoid further damage to the boat.

The team are banking on the ship arriving around midday local time to give enough time to carry out the complicated transfer operation in daylight and allow the crew and boat to leave for Cape Town tonight.

“It appears that our ship will be arriving today (Friday) about noon,” Read said. “Perfect timing, we hope – enough time so we can get prepared during daylight, load during daylight and be off. Knock on wood, everything goes without a hitch.”

The lifting of Mar Mostro aboard the ship will have to be carried out in deep water off the island’s coast and Read’s biggest concern is that Atlantic swells could hamper the operation or worse still cause further damage to the boat.

“As with everything that we have done over the past, let’s say five years, nothing comes without risk. Our friend or foe will certainly be the weather. It is forecast to get windier as the day goes on, but the big one is the ocean swell. How big will the swells be?

“Obviously a wave going past the boat at the wrong time creates a very good chance of breaking something if the boat suddenly violently jerks on the cranes lifting cable. We are very wary of this and are coming up with a system that will serve as a bit of a shock absorber for the lift.

“Fortunately, our Tristan friends are going to assist with two of their RIBs which can help position PUMA’s Mar Mostro and help create this shock absorber. It all has to work perfectly. Fingers crossed.”

If the rescue mission goes according to plan the PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG team could be on their way to Cape Town by this evening, giving them a fighting chance of being ready to take part in the second in-port race on December 10 and the start of Leg 2 to Abu Dhabi the following day.

Read says the welcome and support he and his crew have received during their enforced stay on Tristan de Cunha will stay with them all forever.

“Our team has really fallen for this place and its people. They have been nothing short of exceptional hosts. We owe them more than we could ever repay. They have given us hope as well as comfort in pretty trying times.

“It has been nothing short of an amazing experience. We have had time to acclimate into island life. We have seen first hand how this group of people on the island live off the land and the sea, as well as off of periodic shipments coming from South Africa.

“We have seen industry (lobster) and culture. We have spoken to kids and adults alike. We now appreciate the access we have to basic communication when on the mainland more than ever. Cell phones are a non-entity here. The Internet café’s three computers get you emails at their own pace. And don’t even think about downloading an attachment no matter how small. Community communication happens with pieces of paper posted in certain key locations around the town.

“I was sitting in the internet café alongside Brad yesterday getting our emails when all of a sudden a cow walked up to the narrow front door and stuck in her head. After looking around, she backed out and walked away. Brad suggested she was checking to see if a computer was free (which it wasn’t) to check her Facebook page. Welcome to Tristan.”

Although the PUMA crew have only one goal – a return to the Volvo Ocean Race – Read says the warmth and generosity of the islanders towards them during their time there will make leaving an emotional experience.

“To say thank you and goodbye to Tristan da Cunha will be difficult. It will be a bittersweet moment – a moment in time that we have been looking forward to because it means that we are off to hopefully rejoin the race that we are meant to be in.

“But, it will also mean saying goodbye to our new amazing friends most likely forever. But you never really know. Hope is a strange bedfellow. Hope that we can stay on schedule, and hope that someday our paths will cross again with some or all of Tristan’s wonderful population.

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