The PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG team has announced that Thomas Johanson will join the crew for Leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12. Johanson, from Espoo, Finland, will take the place of helmsman Kelvin Harrap (Napier, New Zealand) onboard PUMA’s Mar Mostro for the journey from Auckland, New Zealand, to Itajaí, Brazil, which gets underway on Sunday, March 18. Harrap, who will take a break due to carpal tunnel syndrome in both arms as well as bursitis in his elbow, will remain part of the crew through the In-Port Race on Saturday, March 17.
“Kelvin is a huge part of our crew, and it's tough to lose him at this stage in the game,” said PUMA skipper Ken Read. “We're facing what is always a tough and daunting leg in the race – the Southern Ocean. So, we're incredibly lucky Thomas is able to bring his knowledge and experience to this team for a stretch of sailing he honestly enjoys. The Southern Ocean is no place to sail with injuries that impact your ability to be fast and safe. Its a good time to try and get Kelvin healthy again.”
Johanson, age 42, returns to the Volvo Ocean Race after sailing onboard Ericsson 3 and finishing fourth during the 2008-09 edition of the race. A three-time Olympian (1996, 2000, 2004), he captured the gold medal in the 49er class at the 2000 Olympic Games along with teammate Jyrki Jarvi – Finland's first medal in sailing in 20 years. Johanson won bronze at the 2000 World Championships, he is also a two-time Laser European Champion (1991, 1992) and captured the Laser World Championship in 1993 – a regatta held in Auckland. He recently served as skipper of the 60-foot trimaran TietoEnator from 2004-06.
“I’m excited to be joining the PUMA crew, and this is the best leg in the Volvo Ocean Race,” Johanson said. “The last time I sailed through the Southern Ocean we won the leg, so it brings good memories. The Southern Ocean is both scary and rewarding at the same time. I’m already focused on getting ready for the night sailing, the risks of icebergs as you go so far south, and all that the leg involves. And, the last time I was in Auckland was in 1993 when I won the Laser World Championship – it was also a big moment for me.”
Harrap will begin treatment immediately in New Zealand. If the treatment is successful he is expected to rejoin the crew at the conclusion of Leg 5 in Brazil. He is facing post-race surgery regardless. Harrap, who is in the midst of his third round the world race, was named to the PUMA team in March 2011. He has served as helmsman and inshore tactician since the start of this year’s race.