Gunnar Krantz was fighting to hold the lead on the second leg of the Volvo Ocean Race yesterday, an important man down after his navigator, Marcel van Triest, made an unexpected departure from the boat.
The Dutchman, one of the highest paid navigators in the world, left SEB as it approached Eclipse Island off the south-west tip of Australia with still 1,800 miles to race to the finish of the 6,500-mile course from Cape Town to Sydney.
The boat did not even stop as van Triest dived into the water to be picked up by a waiting boat and taken to Perth for a flight back to Europe because of a seriously ill "close family member''.
Krantz had not wanted to release the information at all in case rivals thought he was vulnerable but had cleared the move with race officials. "We have altered the watch systems on board to accommodate these unexpected changes to a set-up which has been previously planned in case of illness or injuries on board.
"It is, of course, a sensitive and unwanted situation, but, in these circumstances, Marcel's situation again and the human values involved are the defining factors.
"Thanks to our preparations we believe we can still keep our competitiveness in the fleet."
Both Krantz and the British watch leader Matt Humphries are experienced navigators, but face a tricky end-game as SEB, second-place illbruck and Grant Dalton in Amer Sports One are in a quicker southern group while News Corp, Assa Abloy and djuice are on the more direct, northerly route as they race towards the next turning point through the Bass strait which separates south-eastern Australia from Tasmania.
Both Lisa McDonald in the all-woman Amer Sports Too and Kanut Frostad in djuice are facing protests from the race committee for crossing the shipping lanes when leaving Cape Town at the start of the leg.
But, given the international jury's attitude to a rule infringement which made the leg-one winner illbruck illegal, it is expected that they will, if found guilty, receive a fine rather than forfeiting any place points.Reuse content