Volvo Ocean Race boats are all at the cutting edge of sailing technology, right up to what the crew eat and drink. Freeze-dried meals and desalinators are the order of the day: no heavy water tanks and regular food to weigh them down and slow them down. So what do they do if their desalinators break?
The DongFeng race team, currently in 4th place, faced this problem only two days ago, the first day of Leg 6 from Brazil to Newport, RI. With 18 days to go and no assistance permitted, the crew of nine had to find a solution, and fast. Authorized by the race committee, they opened their survival pack and started using their Katadyn Manual Survivor 35. It’s no easy task to hand-pump all the water needed for nine freeze-dried meals three times a day, plus drinking water. In fact it took the crew 4.5 hours of hard pumping to make enough water for dinner that first evening but, as crew member Sam Greenfield wrote, the Katadyn 35 was quite literally their “lifeline.” He reports that, by pumping hard, he can produce 1 liter of drinkable water from the manual desalinator in 15 minutes, which is about in line with Katadyn’s claims of 4.5 liters’ output per hour.
Hand-pumping every drop of water is a huge demand on an already busy racing crew — the Katadyn 35 and its smaller sister the 06 were designed for life rafts — so the team and their shore support are working to repair the electric desalinator. The problem was a bad leak in its casing, and the team is currently waiting for the glue in their repair to dry to see if it was successful. At the same time, they managed to inch from 5th to 4th place, with the first five boats only 2nM apart.
The DongFeng team are the same that were dismasted back in March. The boat is sponsored by the Chinese automotive company DongFeng and is managed by French sailors. Read their blogs here.