Abby Ehler, Boat Captain and Pit, rounds up Leg 5:
“The first week out of Auckland was really good. We had good boat speed against the other boats in flat water, our modes were good, our skeds were good and it was all going well until the first mishap when we broke the Fractional Zero. That really put a spanner in the works. We found our limits and it really put a dink in our confidence. We were a bit down from there. Our confidence came back but we were slower for some time after that. The fact is that you can’t practice in these conditions. I think as a team we dealt with the mishaps well, we made a plan and executed it. Then there was damage to the main, we had to check the rig fully and there were other factors before we really got going again, we got south but by then we were in a different weather pattern to the rest of the fleet. From there, unfortunately, we were just sailing our own race. Then we got water in the electrics and had to sail blind for a while. We sailed a semi-safe mode from there. In the strong breeze close to the Horn I think we sailed well, with small sails and the big waves, we were comfortable.
We were experiencing conditions we had never had together as a crew. But for sure we had the throttle back, just sailing our own race. You cannot even compare our speeds because we were in different weather systems. And even at four days out from the finish in Itajaí we encountered more problems, we were sailing fast downwind with two reefs and the A3 when we hit an object and damaged our port rudder. We managed to fix it to make it work but the steering was heavy. Since then the rudder and the bearings have all been replaced as the rudder was damaged beyond repair. It was a very difficult time coming in over the last few days. Everyone was shattered but the welcome into Itajaí was extraordinary, what a welcome! I think what we take away from the leg is positive. It would be easy to be critical, we had a massive Chinese gybe and the others raced off to the east. But we have to look at the bigger picture, the way we handled things and what we learnt for the future.
The teamwork was fantastic and there is so much learning that we can take forward to the Transatlantic leg, experiences for the cold, downwind sailing. Now we are back into what you would call performance sailing, into base modes and I think we are better for that. We still know our best has to come. The difference between how we sailed the boat on Leg One and how we do now is just huge, enormous. The team dynamics are different; we have come on in leaps and bounds. This does not feel like a great result, but there is one boat still out there. It’s a fact that you have to get here, and we got here. That is part of the game.”