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Chinese Gybes As Volvo Ocean Fleet Toppled In Southern Ocean Storm

24th March 2015
Chinese Gybes As Volvo Ocean Fleet Toppled In Southern Ocean Storm

#vor – Four of the six Volvo Ocean Race boats suffered big hits as the Southern Ocean gave the fleet its roughest ride of the race in 12 dramatic hours.

Team SCA (Sam Davies/GBR), Dongfeng Race Team (Charles Caudrelier/FRA) and MAPFRE (Iker Martínez/ESP) did Chinese gybes* from Monday to Tuesday but all three crews escaped injury despite the boats toppling over.

Damage was still being assessed in the aftermath of the incidents although Dongfeng Race Team appeared to have avoided any serious problems with the boat.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR) also endured a drama-filled night, reporting a "night of two gybes: a wild one in pitch black with a massive wipe-out and then a 'controlled' one at 30 knots".

Dongfeng Race Team were first to reveal a Chinese gybe, with their Onboard Reporter Yann Riou (FRA) reporting: "It took two to three hours to sort out the mess, the boat was on her side, we took 300 litres of water in to the boat through an air vent."

Then Team SCA were similarly upended at around 0500 UTC, the all-women team's Onboard Reporter, Anna-Lena Elled (SWE), reported.

"We ended up on the side for maybe two to four minutes before slowly getting back in the right position," she told Race HQ.

The crew was assessing the damage and already starting to effect some repairs, Elled continued.

MAPFRE (Iker Martínez/ESP) also reported a third Chinese gybe, which happened around 2000 UTC. There was no immediate news from the Spanish boat regarding damage.

All four boats were still able to continue sailing.

The Emirati boat still recovered to move within eight nautical miles (nm) of leaders Team Brunel (Bouwe Bekking/NED) with MAPFRE in third, 26nm further adrift. Team SCA lost 38nm with their struggles to fall 97.9nm behind the leaders.


"This is the first Chinese gybe experience in my life, I can still feel the fear when I think about it!" – Liu Xue (Black)

"That will be a great and amusing story to share over a beer in Itajai, or to my grandchildren in a few years time – but last night it was hell!" – Charles Caudrelier

Last night we experienced our first Chinese Gybe. To explain to you what this is we have two contrasting pieces of writing. One from Rookie Chinese sailor Liu Xue (Black) and one from our Skipper Charles Caudrelier. Both make for a very interesting read:

Black's blog

This is the first Chinese gybe experience in my life, I can still feel the fear when I think about! We were about to do a manoeuvre, but before we managed to start it, we were attacked by 2 huge waves. Holy crap, the waves were so huge and we were suddenly pushed right over on to our side. My brain went blank when that happened. I grabbed hold of the first thing I could – the sailor's instinct. It felt like I was on the Titanic when that happened, (I kept thinking) no, it's going to be bad.

But I calmed down quickly. I knew we have to avoid going overboard when a Chinese gybe happens, and that would be the scariest thing. But luckily we had only just come up on deck, and the boom didn't hit any one when it crashed across the boat, otherwise there would have been blood onboard now. Wolf and I were quite astonished, firstly because we've never experienced this before, and second it was happening during the night. But everyone was quite calm, no one was screaming or yelling. We tried to find the highest point (to stay on the boat), to make sure we were safe and then to find the solution to get out of it.

We didn't talk about it too much afterwards, the wind will be strong in the next few days, we rather save some energy (to fight with the wind and the waves) than keep talking. Wolf and I had a chat today, we both agree that the Chinese gybe that happened to the boat is a valuable experience for us. But hopefully it's not going to happen that often, otherwise I'm not sure if my heart is strong enough (laugh).

The wind and waves are very strong now, and I couldn't help throwing up again. People don't have much appetite when they don't feel comfortable. However, it's way too cold now and I had to force myself to eat something. At worse, I can still throw up after eating, but we really need calories and energy to fight against the horrible weather. It's freezing cold on the deck now, I keep trembling. It feels better when you go back to the cabin.

Despite the fact that is super bumpy, we sleep very deep, so you understand how tired we are. When we are off duty, we fall asleep in no time. I remember there was once when I was sleeping, my body was lifted up by the waves, then smashed back on to the bunk, but I fell asleep in no time again. No matter how bumpy it is, it doesn't affect us at all, we don't have any problem to fall asleep.

We haven't reached the Cape Horn yet, but it has already brought us so many challenges. Yesterday we were saying it's not as difficult as we thought, and then this all happened. How many challenges we will have to overcome in the future is unpredictable. Come on Southern Ocean, bring it on!

Caudrelier's blog

Chinese gybe

That will be a great and amusing story to share over a beer in Itajai, or to my grandchildren in a few years time – but last night it was hell!

Laid flat on the water [boat heeled at 90 degrees] at 48 degrees South, with 40 knots of wind and 5 metre seas is really not fun at all.

Bizarrely however in this position its very calm and quiet onboard, no more noise from the speed of the boat, its wake or the waves. A silence that allowed us to easily communicate between us to get out of it!

We paid a heavy price in terms of miles lost to our competitors [about 30], but I confess that despite that I am a happy skipper even after the incident. Why?

All my men are onboard, the crew did an extraordinary job, and we haven't broken anything, or damaged any sails.

A miracle.

So we really have started this leg badly, and we're making way too many errors. To win you have to make less errors than the others, and we've already used up our allowance in the first 6 days – there is still a long way to go! Now we are going to concentrate on doing a better job – promise!

Published in Volvo Ocean Race Team

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