ALICANTE Spain (Reuters) - Chinese boat Dongfeng Race Team lost the Volvo Ocean Race lead early on Saturday after an unidentified object in the Atlantic smashed their rudder.
The crew were forced to replace the part after the "violent impact" rocked the boat at 0210 GMT.
The delay to affect repairs was enough for close rivals Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing to regain the lead in a very tightly contested opening leg from Alicante to Cape Town in the nine-month offshore marathon race.
Dongfeng’s onboard reporter Yann Riou reported to Race HQ that the team were forced to send a crew-member into the sea to remove the broken rudder.
"We had two options, installing the emergency rudder or removing what was left of the old rudder and putting the new one in place. We decided to go for the second option," he told Race HQ.
"Thomas (Rouxel) put the diving suit on. He jumped into the water...removed what was left from the old rudder (not much) and we put the new one in place.
"We are all disappointed...it does not look very fair but there’s nothing to do about this."
It has not been plain sailing for Ian Walker’s Abu Dhabi crew either. They reported narrowly missing a net yesterday afternoon but the winds were so light that they were able to take avoiding action.
Team Brunel and Team SCA were not so lucky and were held up briefly after debris caught in their keels.
The seven-strong fleet were expected to arrive in Cape Town in the first leg from Alicante at the beginning of November but their estimated arrival may be delayed after light winds in the Atlantic held up their progress.
The 38,739-nautical mile race started in Alicante on Oct 11 and is scheduled to finish in Gothenburg, Sweden on June 27, 2015.
Seven boats are competing from China, Abu Dhabi, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands, Turkey/U.S. and Denmark.
Editing by Amlan Chakraborty