SAILING JUST TWO boats remain at sea today in the fifth leg of the Volvo Ocean Race following yesterday’s sudden dismasting of stage leader Groupama 4, skippered by Franck Cammas, with Ireland’s Damian Foxall on-board.

The incident occurred barely 600 miles from the finishing-line at Itajai, Brazil, at the end of a 6,700 nautical mile run from Auckland, New Zealand, that started 18 days ago.

Cammas has been leading this leg for almost two weeks non-stop as nearly all the other boats in the fleet with the exception of Ken Read’s Puma team have had significant boat damage problems.

In addition to Groupama, Team Sanya has officially retired and will miss the next leg, while being shipped to Miami. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing is also being shipped from Chile where she arrived yesterday morning after hull delamination problems.

The Emirate team joined the Spanish-New Zealand entry Camper in Puerto Montt, though the latter is currently thought to be planning a restart to the leg and hopes to sail 3,000 miles in two weeks to be in time for the next leg.

If some good news is available to Cammas it is that the breakage occurred just 50 miles south of Punta del Este in Uruguay, the port associated with the former Whitbread races, where they could stop and rerig their boat with a replacement mast that would be air-freighted to South America.

Whether the team continues to Itajai or carries out repairs, they can at best expect a third place, while Puma continues unchallenged except for overall race leader Telefonica closing from behind to claim an improved podium result that will strengthen their standing in first overall.

No explanation or cause has been offered except that the breakage in the mast was just above the first spreader fitting that helps keep the rig standing.

Mast breakage is now a familiar event in this edition of the race although the timing is surprising given previous failures mostly took place in the early stages.

Ian Walker’s Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing lost its rig on the first night of leg one leaving Alicante in Spain, while Read’s Puma team was dismantled two weeks later deep in the South Atlantic. Both boats retired from the leg.

One month later, Mike Sanderson’s Team Sanya suspended racing in leg two after rigging problems were suspected and disaster was narrowly averted. Overall race leader Telefonica skippered by Iker Martinez has also been swapping rigging during stop-overs, also over suspicions that they too may have issues.

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