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Chinese Irish Entry Announces Leg One Retirement

7th November 2011
Chinese Irish Entry Announces  Leg One Retirement
#SANYA–Team Sanya hit choppy waters this evening following a decision to announce an official retirement from Leg One of the 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race but they vow to get back in the race as soon as possible. The team have been working non-stop for the last two days to assess both the damage to their boat and the alternative options to get the boat and team back into the race as soon as possible. The extent of the damage meant that they had no choice but to retire from this leg and focus 100% of their efforts into getting the repair processes underway and shipping the boat to Cape Town the fastest way possible.

Mike Sanderson, CEO/Skipper of Team Sanya, spent time today elaborating on the events at sea on the morning of Sunday 6th November, and the team's intention to get back in the race as quickly as possible,

"We were moving along nicely and very happy with our progress, managing the big breeze and waves very nicely, we were not pushing 100% and had decided to throttle back a knot or so given the conditions; we felt we were in a comfortable zone. I had just had a chat with the guys when we suddenly felt a very odd lurch, like dragging the keel through soft mud. The guys on deck saw a lot of water coming into the bow and we could also hear the noise of water coming into the bow. The watertight doors were already shut thankfully.

We got everyone up and into lifejackets. For sure if the watertight doors had not been shut, we would have been sunk. We avoided the bear away for a time, which was a pretty tense time, we got the pumps going but they were not really making much difference. After a time our situation stabilized, we were nursing the boat upwind at 4-5 knots and then we bore away, got the jib down and suspended sailing as we headed into port.

Initially we had no idea of the extent of the damage, whether it was a small puncture wound or something larger. We could then see some carbon shards coming off the bow, which we realized were the uni directional fibres peeling back and we then realized the severity of the situation. Once we were at the dock in Motril we could see we had a deal breaker on our hands in terms of not being able to carry on racing from here to Cape Town.

With regard to the injury of our bowman, Andy Meiklejohn, he had an unfortunate bad accident in a completely unrelated incident. We were going through a jib change with Andy on the bow in extremely rough conditions and we had reduced speed from 13 down to around 6/7 knots and were nursing her through the waves. We were then hit by a series of massive waves (most likely the same ones that brought down the Abu Dhabi rig). Andy came down badly on his ankle/foot and sustained an injury. We contacted Race Office but were not sure of the breakage at that time. One hour later we were headed for shore due to the bow damage and so thankfully we were able to get him to the local hospital to be assessed where they confirmed he had indeed broken his foot. Andy is now in the process of receiving medical advise and will be treated asap.

Andy is an extremely pivotal team member and will be sorely missed while he is off. We will asses his recovery time and look at our Plan B for a replacement should we need one.

We are now 100% focused on getting the boat to Cape Town as soon as possible that would leave us 8-9 days in Cape Town before the start. Our worst-case scenario is that we ship to Cape Town but then we don't have time to fix it in time so we are late starting from Cape Town and then miss the ship from our stop point during leg 2.

This is no small task, we have a chop out a 6m x 3m x 1m section of the boat and replace it – normally a 2-3 week job shoehorned into 7 days. But this is the Volvo Ocean Race and we will do what we have to do to make it happen.

One fact that gives me some peace is that damage was not caused by anything we did wrong. For sure I have to believe that we hit something that caused the initial puncture wound that then peeled backwards. We were performing well and in good shape, we have not incurred one other bit of damage in those 24 hours so that is good news.
We need to take the time to do some serious thinking and planning, assessing the logistical options and making the right choices that get us back in the race as soon as possible. We need to repair the hull perfectly; a rush job is not an option.

From a personal point of view I have never before retired from a Whitbread or Volvo leg and so it's a pretty sad moment. We were very comfortable with how we were sailing and so it's extremely disappointing for the guys. Looking back on it we wouldn't do anything differently than we did so it's a good feeling that we handled the situation well.

For us as a team, we can still absolutely achieve everything we have set out to do – win some podium positions and take a few scalps from the other teams – and we fully intend to do that still. It is tragic to be out of this leg for sure but perhaps it would have been more tragic for one of the teams focusing on the overall event win.

Accidents do happen and now its all about the tenacity and focus to get it right, we don't give up, we're all dying to get back into the race, it was gut wrenching getting off the boat in Motril and seeing a big part of the boat missing.

Nothing about this team is reckless, we're not quitters or unprofessional in any way, we have a great bunch of guys here and I have absolute confidence that we will get back on the race track as soon as we possibly can. For now it's a full frenzy of activity to get our Sanya Lan race boat on a ship this Friday and turn a boat building job of 2-3 weeks into 7 days!"

Team Sanya will confirm shipping route and dates of departure and arrival into Cape Town as soon as that information is confirmed to them.

Published in Volvo Ocean Race Team

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