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ON THE CUTTING EDGE

Watch captain Tony Mutter driving through heavy waves onboard PUMA Ocean Racing  ©Amory Ross/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race
Watch captain Tony Mutter driving through heavy waves onboard PUMA Ocean Racing  ©Amory Ross/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race

PUMA navigator Tom Addis says he is giving the on-deck sailing crew plenty of latitude on the course they steer through the Southern Ocean given the current ferocious winds and intimidating sea state.

“Nobody is sailing at 100 per cent. You’re just trying to get the boat through and sail safely" - PUMA's Tom Addis


Addis said the normal set of detailed course instructions given to the helmsman were of secondary importance to boat handling and safety considerations.

“Often in flat waters you’re finessing all kind of things, trying to go a bit higher here and a bit lower there and just getting down to details on what you’re doing," said the PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG navigator.

"But in these conditions boat handling and safety becomes the primary goal really. It's straight line sailing with very few manoeuvres -- that’s pretty much it.

“We’re just giving the guys a very general course to sail, but very generally leaving it up to them to work out the details. You might want to steer at 95 degrees, but then people are being washed off the wheel every half an hour so you have to steer another course."

Addis said he didn’t believe any of the teams were currently pushing full bore in the vicious winds and towering waves the fleet are set to endure all the way to Cape Horn.

“Nobody is sailing at 100 per cent,” Addis said. “You’re just trying to get the boat through and sail safely.

“We’re probably sailing around 85 per cent or so. With 30 knots of breeze in flat water these boats sail incredibly fast but when you’ve got waves crashing over the deck you have to back off a bit. It’s a bit of a moving target, but it’s probably about 85 per cent."

Race meteorologist Gonzalo confirmed that conditions will worsen over the next 24 hours.

“The conditions are expected to remain severe until after Cape Horn,” Infante said. “The fleet will encounter the western and most violent portion of the Southern Ocean low which will pack storm force winds up to 55 knots and waves over nine metres.”

At 1300 UTC today the top four boats remained tightly packed with just 70 nautical miles (nm) separating leaders Groupama sailing team and fourth placed CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand.

Addis believes this will be the case even after the leaders clear the exclusion zone put in place by race organisers to keep the boats safe from the risk of icebergs.

“We are still likely to be a bit constrained, I think for the next couple of days even after that ice gate, so I don’t think we’ll see a big split in the fleet just yet,” said Addis.

With all the crews currently focused more on surviving intact to Cape Horn than on their fleet positions Addis says he believes the competition will intensify considerably once the boats round the southern tip of Chile.

“I think everyone at the moment is just trying to go as fast as we can but not worrying about positions,” he said. “At the moment it’s just a case of trying to do all the right things. We all push as hard as we want to push, we’ve all got different strengths and weaknesses.

“But once we’re around Cape Horn and into flatter water it all changes and there will be opportunities,” Addis concluded.


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