Volvo Ocean Race: Preparing for Battle

Published on November 18th, 2017

(November 18, 2017; Leg 2, Day 14) – Those following the rankings and tracker for the 2017/18 Volvo Ocean Race could be forgiven for thinking they’d glanced away for more than one of the six-hour position reports. This morning, the full Volvo Ocean Race fleet is sailing away from Cape Town, a tactical decision to pick up stronger winds in the coming hours.

All seven boats in the Volvo Ocean Race fleet are sailing to the southwest. But the finish line in Cape Town is now nearly directly to the east. Every mile sailed in this westerly direction is adding to, not subtracting from, the distance to finish.

The leaderboard is constantly undergoing a shake-up, reflective at the moment almost entirely by how far east a team is positioned. As the fleet approaches the latitude of the finish line in Cape Town, this is hardly surprising. Any progress to the east is a direct mile off the 2,500 or so miles left to the finishing line.

But tactically, it’s hardly that simple, and teams that many experts are touting as in the strongest position on this leg are still charging to the southwest, effectively sailing away from the finishing line in an effort to pick up strong breeze in a weather system that will carry them to the finish in about a week’s time.

“The last position sked dropped us from first to fifth,” said team AkzoNobel watch captain Chris Nicolson. His team had been positioned furthest to the east the last few days and had thus been leading the rankings.

“But we’re now exiting out of the high pressure system and waiting for a low pressure to pick us up. There are several boats on our bow, but the race is to the next low pressure system. We’ll probably drop some more miles at the next sked, but the game is to set ourselves up for the front to come through and ride that for the next four days or so.”

An interesting development over the past 24 hours has been in the different tactics of Dongfeng Race Team and MAPFRE, two boats who had been leading the charge south for most of the past week.

But in the early hours of this morning, Dongfeng appears to have switched tactics, and is now approximately 80 miles further east. That means closer to Cape Town, but also nearer to the lighter winds of the high pressure system. In fact, while MAPFRE is sailing in 16 knots of wind at the 1300 UTC report, Dongfeng is seeing just 12 knots. How this plays out over the next 12 – 24 hours could determine the leader into Cape Town.

But it is a tactical gamble. The extra distance should be more than compensated by the stronger winds the teams are seeking. But it’s no sure thing. And the navigators are starting to express their difference of opinion in the tracks they are taking.

This has lead to some interesting developments overnight. Dongfeng Race Team, previously furthest south, has ceded that position to MAPFRE by continuing to the east for nearly three extra hours.

In fact, by doing so, Dongfong is now positioned further east than anyone else, including team AkzoNobel who also gybed earlier, and as expected, after leading the fleet rankings over the past few days due to that easterly position, are now folding in behind the leaders.

At the back, further to the north, SHK/Scallywag and Turn the Tide on Plastic are sailing directly within in sight of each other, with first one and then the other making a pass as Scallywag navigator Steve Hayles explains:

“Right now we are about 300 metres away from Turn the Tide and every piece of information is available. We can track them in real time via the AIS systems and radar, we can see them move the sail stack and have an idea about sail setup and configuration.

“All this increases the focus on-board as you can assess every little change to water ballast, steering, sail set-up etc. and get a real time near metre accurate view of the differences. It’s good fun and recently we managed to roll over the top of the other boat so it has helped lift the spirits but fortunes come and go and when it’s their turn tonight in the middle of a fast moving situation in a rain cloud then we might feel a little more under pressure.

“Enjoying the close competition with at least one other boat but it’s going to be long and stressful to do this for the remaining 2700 miles.”

Note: This is the stage of the race where the rankings may be totally skewed, as a team committed to the south track falls back while any team hedging to the east to cut the corner instantly jumps up. The rankings will likely be in state of flux until the very end.

Leg 2 – Position Report (13:00 UTC)
1. Turn the Tide on Plastic (POR), Dee Caffari (GBR) 2471.9 nm DTF
2. Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag (HKG), David Witt (AUS) 4.1 nm DTL
3. Dongfeng Race Team (CHN), Charles Caudrelier (FRA) 6.8 nm DTL
4. Team AkzoNobel (NED), Simeon Tienpont (NED) 46.0 nm DTL
5. Vestas 11th Hour Racing (DEN/USA), Charlie Enright (USA), 58.4 nm DTL
6. Team Brunel (NED), Bouwe Bekking (NED) 71.2 nm DTL
7. MAPFRE (ESP), Xabi Fernández (ESP) 71.2 nm DTL
DTF – Distance to Finish; DTL – Distance to Leader

To see the crew lists… click here.

Race detailsLive contentScoreboardRace routeFacebookYouTube

The second leg of the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race started November 5 and is expected to take three weeks for the seven teams to complete the 7000 nm course from Lisbon, Portugal to Cape Town, South Africa.

2017-18 Edition: Entered Teams – Skippers
Team AkzoNobel (NED), Simeon Tienpont (NED)
Dongfeng Race Team (CHN), Charles Caudrelier (FRA)
MAPFRE (ESP), Xabi Fernández (ESP)
Vestas 11th Hour Racing (DEN/USA), Charlie Enright (USA)
Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag (HKG), David Witt (AUS)
Turn the Tide on Plastic (POR), Dee Caffari (GBR)
Team Brunel (NED), Bouwe Bekking (NED)

Background: Racing the one design Volvo Ocean 65, the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race begins in Alicante, Spain on October 22 2017 with the final finish in The Hague, Netherlands on June 30 2018. In total, the 11-leg race will visit 12 cities in six continents: Alicante, Lisbon, Cape Town, Melbourne, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Auckland, Itajaí, Newport, Cardiff, Gothenburg, and The Hague. A maximum of eight teams will compete.

Source: Volvo Ocean Race

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