American yacht pulls out of Volvo Ocean Race

The Volvo Ocean Race is well underway with American Yacht Puma the latest casualty in a dramatic opening leg that has injured half the fleet.

While all 11 crew members are safe, the yacht was dismasted about 2000 nautical miles from the finish in 20-plus knot winds and the devastating waters of the Atlantic Ocean in the opening leg.

“We’ve just withdrawn from the leg,” skipper Ken Read told “We have [the mast] jury rigged – we have about 15 feet of mast left. We have our trysail and storm jib awkwardly set. We’re supplementing that with really low revs of the engine just to make forward progress.

Puma was in second position in the first leg of the race, sailing from Alicante, Spain, to Cape Town when the mast broke. The causes of the dismasting are not known.

Also casualties of the opening leg, Team Sanya of China and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Azzam fell foul of brutal conditions, forced to retire with hull damage and a broken mast respectively.Putting sailing prowess and human ability to an exceptional test, the nine-month long Volvo Ocean Race is held every three years. Called the most important and extreme offshore race in the world, those who take part know this is no pleasure cruise.

“What makes the Volvo Ocean Race so special is that it’s so extreme,” New Zealander Mike Sanderson, 34, told USAToday. “You’re going through the Southern Ocean plowing through waves and around icebergs and there’s snow. Then eight days later you’re coming up the coast of Brazil, and it’s 90 degrees down below and you’re sweltering hot and you can’t cool down

Flickr photo by Blue Seahorse