Leg 7, Day 14: More drama as Leg 7 metes out a cruel fate to Vestas

Leg 7 of this Volvo Ocean Race will always be remembered for the loss off Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag of John Fisher, but it may well also be remembered for being a demolition derby among the other boats still racing.

Following MAPFRE’s stop for repairs west of Cape Horn, the last 24 hours has see the dismasting of Vestas 11th Hour Racing south of the Falklands while battling with Dongfeng, and damage reported to the rig of Turn the Tide on Plastic.

While Vestas is now out of this leg – an awful payback for that team after having got back into the race at Auckland – Turn the Tide on Plastic is continuing after the crew managed to effect running repairs to one of the spreaders in the upper section of the mast.

Meanwhile, in what remains of the race, MAPFRE has been catching up after setting sail again with a deficit of around 275 miles on the leader, Team Brunel. She is now just 200 miles adrift.

In the latest position report Team Brunel has managed to re-establish a small three-mile advantage over Dongfeng in second place after Charles Caudrelier and his crew made big gains when being lifted to the east of the Falkland Islands and briefly took the lead.

Dongfeng is currently heading slightly east of the direct line to the finish at Itajai, reaching at 18 knots of boatspeed in 20 knots of breeze. Behind her Team AkzoNobel is in third place (+58), followed by Turn the Tide on Plastic in fourth (+111).

Of course for Dongfeng the game plan is to try to win the leg, beat MAPFRE and place as many boats between them as possible. This is getting harder with the retirement of Vestas and the damage to Turn the Tide on Plastic.

Bouwe Bekking, the Team Brunel skipper, has been fretting about the changing fortunes of the leading boats on this leg since Cape Horn and has said some routing predictions have MAPFRE winning the leg from behind. So there is all to play for as the boats head north.

Vestas suffered a total mast failure at the first spreader when pounding through rough seas on a broad reach. There was a big bang on board and the mast collapsed. The crew were able to quickly cut it away and there is no damage to the hull or the people on board. The boat is now motoring towards Port Stanley.

Here is Pascal Bidegorry, the navigator on Dongfeng, describing the sudden disappearance of Vestas as the two boats were racing, just a few miles apart.

“We were reaching with the sea state quite short and bad - it was very choppy,” he said. “There was a lot of water coming over the bow. The wind speed was around 30-35 knots.

“It is strange because we are very close to the warm front so there is no visibility. Vestas was very close to us, only 2.5 miles, just behind us. At one moment I said it is strange because I can see Vestas on AIS and then 30 minutes later we received an email and now we know that they have dismasted,” he added. Vestas 11th Hour Racing then confirmed that everyone was safe and they did not need any outside assistance from Dongfeng.

“It is really a pity for them because the South Pacific during this race was really hard and really stressful. It is a pity for them because everybody should finish this leg. It is a good result for everybody to finish this leg. It is not the case for Vestas and that is a pity.”