After 20 days of sailing through some of the toughest conditions imaginable, Puma won the Volvo Ocean Race's fifth stage by just 12 minutes early yesterday morning.
Puma collected 30 vital points, holding off overall race leader Telefonica, which chased all the way up the South American coast to the Brazilian shipping port of Itajai despite having to stop for 17 hours to fix a damaged hull.
An epic leg that left the fleet battered and broken was decided by the ice-cool nerve of 50-year-old American skipper Ken Read. With the dramatic "match race" being watched by thousands of fans on shore, Read repeatedly blocked the route of Telefonica, which had caught up with the leaders after trailing by more than 400 nautical miles following the pit-stop in Cape Horn.
"I've never done such a tough offshore leg in my life," said Read. "We ran out of food a day-and-a-half ago so we haven't eaten for a day-and-a-half. It's been pretty intense.
"Our hearts go out to the crews who have suffered damage. We know what that's like and it's even worse when it's in a place like the Southern Ocean."
Groupama of France was Puma's long-term rival for fifth leg honours but joined the casualty list 650 nautical miles from Itajai while leading when their mast broke in two on the fifth stage through the southern Pacific and past Cape Horn from Auckland, New Zealand. They plan to rejoin the nine-month, 39,000-nautical mile race later on Friday after piecing together a "jury-rig" - a patched-up repair - for the mast from a haven in Uruguay.
China's Team Sanya (broken rudder) and Abu Dhabi (hull damage) were both forced to pull out of the leg and Camper suspended racing with a broken hull. After three days of non-stop work, Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand's pit stop was entering its final stages last night with the team expected to depart Puerto Montt shortly for the almost 3000 nautical mile trip around Cape Horn to Itajai in Brazil to complete Leg Five.
The substantial repair job is now complete with the new bulkhead and longitudinals installed, and they were being cured or 'cooked' - a process which involves blowing hot air over the repaired areas in order to set the resin.