The Biggest Challenge, Done.

Leg 5 from Auckland to Itajaí was always going to be the biggest challenge for Team SCA and to have come through the Southern Ocean with boat and crew intact and ready to fight on for Leg 6, brings a high degree of satisfaction. Perhaps it did not feel so great to be coming into the Brazilian port a day after the leaders but the job they set out to do was accomplished. For sure it is one of those legs that will feel better after a day or two of rest, and once the real debrief is completed.

The reality is that in point’s terms the result equals their best yet. Dongfeng Race Team paid a high price when they lost the top of their rig in the Southern Ocean, but that is the nature of ocean racing. On the race track Team SCA were badly compromised when they lost their fractional Code Zero. That left them unable to reach efficiently in the prevailing conditions and before too long they were racing in a different weather system from the leaders.


6, 776 NM

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.”


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