(Reuters) – Volvo Ocean Race overall leaders MAPFRE have been forced to suspend their race on the seventh leg from Auckland to Itaji in Brazil to undergo repairs to a damaged mast track, organizers said on Friday.
A section of the mast track came unglued from the mast about five days ago and while the team had managed to keep racing with jury-rig solutions, skipper Xabi Fernandez decided to suspend racing to make proper repairs.
The yacht was about six miles west of Cape Horn when they decided to suspend racing, organizers said. They were about 2,000 miles from the finish line.
“The penalty for suspending racing is that you must remain out of the race for a minimum of 12 hours, and return to the same location where you suspended before resuming the race,” organizers said in a statement.
“Given the speed of the other boats, this latest development has the potential to knock the overall race leader back significantly.”
All the other yachts, except for Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag, had rounded Cape Horn with Team Brunel first around the landmark about two hours ahead of Vestas.
“Well, we are finally around that Cape Horn,” Brunel skipper Bouwe Bekking said. “It didn’t come easy this leg, as everybody knows, it was a windy one.
“It’s like a mental milestone, you’re coming from the Southern Ocean and every mile you sail north the weather gets warmer.
“It’s a magical picture and a highlight for every sailor.”
Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag had withdrawn from the leg after one of their crew John Fisher was presumed lost at sea after he fell overboard on Monday.
The race started from Alicante, Spain, on Oct. 22 and covers 45,000 nautical miles (83,000 km) around the world, featuring a total of 12 host ports. It ends in The Hague, Netherlands, at the end of June.
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty