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VOR: Dongfeng and MAPFRE battle for the Leg 3 lead; gybe fest along the AIEZ has finally ended

EN ROUTE CAPE TOWN TO MELBOURNE – "As most of you would see we have done more than 30 gybes in around 24 hours – you can imagine not much sleep has been going on board. More than that, we had the ice limit to gybe on so we couldn’t do any mistakes on those gybes and enter the zone [which would result in a penalty –Ed.] so it has been full on." –Xabi Fernández (ESP), Skipper of MAPFRE.

And as our Dear Readers who have been following the Volvo Ocean Race know, gybing a VOR 65 is no easy task even when it's not blowing 25kts in rough seas. Just moving the "stack" of sails from the old windward side to the new takes 30 mins of concerted effort by most if not all of the crew, made even more onerous when the sails are soaked. 30 times in 24 hours as they gybed along the Antarctic Ice Exclusion Zone (AIEZ) has left the crews exhausted.

Finally, early today (Tuesday) favorable north-westerly winds allowed the frontrunners to again gybe right on the limit of the AIEZ and point their bows toward the Melbourne finish still 2,000 miles ahead of them.

Using epoxy glue that is not chemically cooperative in cold temps, last-place Team AkzoNobel have managed to re-attach the sail track, or at least part of it, re-hoist their mainsail, and are again proceeding at a decent 20kt-speed comparable to the rest of the fleet. However, they are over 350 miles behind the leaders, and with the Melbourne stopover only a brief three days – a "pitstop" compared to the longer layovers at many other ports – their fight now is to get to Melbourne in time to effect full repairs before the start of the 6,000nm Leg 4 to Hong Kong on January 2nd.

The serious back injury suffered by Annie Lush (GBR) aboard Team Brunel that The Fifth Beatle reported last evening here on Sailing Illustrated given rise to a number of comments from SI readers on our Facebook Page, including this one from Chris Barker (NZL): "I am not sure what is the appeal of watching endless footage of water rushing down the deck at 30 knots. Inevitably people will get hurt. With a few inches of flair in the topsides forward these boats would be much safer and only fractionally slower. With all the boats the same would this be such a problem? P.S. I sailed around the world one and a half times, seven legs in four Whitbreads on five different boats.

Thanks, Chris. Maybe we can get Britton Ward (USA) of Farr Yacht Design to comment on that, or better yet come on one of our live shows to discuss that.