PUMA breaks boom

Storms have hit the Volvo Ocean Race fleet and PUMA is making steady progress northwards towards Qingdao, China during the ‘nightmare’ fourth leg o the race after breaking their boom in two on Saturday, the PUMA Ocean Racing team chose to shelter from the worst of the storm by anchoring in a bay in the lee of the Philippines. Since leaving their safe haven at sunrise on Sunday morning, the team have been steadily checking off the miles with their makeshift rig, still sailing in extreme weather, with gusts of up to 50 knots of wind. As the Chinese New Year begins, the team is working their way up the eastern coast of Taiwan, and have 855 nautical miles to go until they reach the leg finish in Qingdao.

The PUMA Ocean Racing team have fashioned a temporary solution and are able to sail upwind without a boom, by rigging up a new mainsheet system. The team is currently sailing at a speed of 13 knots and has covered 234 nautical miles in the last 24 hours, more than any other boat in the fleet. Skipper Ken Read has mangled the top of his left index finger, but has been tended to by onboard medic, Shannon Falcone (ANT).

Speaking in hindsight about breaking the boom, Skipper Ken Read (USA) commented: “The guys sailing on this boat are studs. No fear. There is one thing we have all agreed on. The waves we saw on Saturday were some of the largest any of us have seen. As if it was on cue, about two minutes after the boom broke the massive waves started breaking on us.”

“We are not out of the woods yet but we can see a hint of daylight. Today is the first day of Chinese New Year, the year of the Ox. I have been told that the Ox symbolises prosperity, through fortitude and hard work. Basically keep working at it, and the results will come. Well, let’s hope we can. We lived through some brutal seas last night and have a few more structural problems. The body shop trio of Casey [Smith, AUS], Salty [Rob Salthouse, NZL] and Michi [Mueller, GER] have got il mostro nearly back into fighting form again. Today is another day and we battle on.”

He continued to tell the gory tale of his own mishap onboard: “I am now starting to feel the effects of some serious pain killers. We have brought about a million people sailing on our Volvo 70 over the past year and a half. The first thing we do is tell the folks not to put their hands on any loaded lines like the mainsheet or runners. Well, I did not heed my own warning. We are all creatures of habit on these boats. I was about to ease the bottom purchase of our new mainsheet system, when we fell off a wave. I braced myself by holding a rope that ran beside me. The exact time I went to hold the rope was the exact time it was being eased through a large titanium block. The block quite easily sucked my left index finger in until I gave a little “hold” call then instinctively I just pulled it out. Yuck. Not much of the last 30% of my finger left. At least from what I remember. Just what the doctor ordered after the last few days. I am officially a dumb ass. So Dr (Shannon) Falcone sprung into action and has cleaned and bandaged my finger. My typing has now taken a severe efficiency hit.”

Weather forecasts predict that the fleet will experience further rough conditions as they reach the northern end of Taiwan. Strong winds against heavy current will produce very rough seas, which the boats must cross before heading towards the coast of China. Current estimates predict that PUMA will reach Qingdao on Thursday or Friday this week.

The Volvo Ocean Race is made up of ten legs, finishing in June 2009 in St. Petersburg, Russia. By joining the race, PUMA has entered a new premium category and is the only Sportslifestyle company to participate in the Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09.

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