The Volvo Ocean Race boats are this week arriving in Rio de Janeiro, bringing their dash across the Southern Ocean from New Zealand to a close. The crews braved icebergs, relentless gales, insufferable cold, and were repeatedly thrown curveballs from the elements, including dozing sharks and kelp that tangled in rudders.
The following report was sent in by the yacht Assa Abloy after it had turned north for Rio: "Below decks McDonald had time to study the relative positions of the fleet, and was pleased that things seemed to be going well against News Corp; they remained neck and neck for a while and then disaster struck. It appeared from the radar and onboard computer, that Assa Abloy was losing speed and distance on the fleet, which the performance figures supported. This was also confirmed by the sail trimmers and urgent checks were made around the boat by torchlight. At the time, they were still leaping off enormous seas and eventually, there was just enough daylight and stability to see that they had caught a large amount of kelp around the keel. Three attempts at backdowns to sail away from the weed were to no avail and there was no alternative for McDonald, it was time for a swim.
"I was livid having been up all night and wanted rid of this piece of weed. There was nothing else for it, but for someone to get in the water and wrestle with it. I looked round and I was by far the fastest and the most angry, so I ripped off my clothes, put on a harness and leapt in. I knew it would be cold but I had no idea just how cold until I hit the water. It took my breath away. I did not have to go that deep but I did wonder if the cold was going to beat me before I had achieved my goal. After two dives down with the boat jumping up and down in the heavy seaway and drifting fast with the main up in 30 knots, I eventually ripped off the whole forest."