Tactics, Sail Handling and Equipment Problems
Published on October 6th, 2014
Cobham is the Satellite and Radio Communications Equipment Partner and Broadcast Equipment Partner for the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race. Working for Cobham, Louay Habib, a highly experienced yacht racing writer and Volvo Ocean Race expert, will be bringing in depth content from now until the race ends. Here was his impression of the first test for the seven teams…
The clouds rising above the mountains behind Alicante, Spain confirmed that the sea breeze was kicking in and this oscillating breeze helped contribute to an eventful In-Port Race on October 4, with the lead changing hands four times.
The race committee set a course of six tactical windward leeward legs. At 1400 local time, the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race had begun. For the sailors it was a special moment: years of preparation had gone by and now it was time for action to begin. From our ring-side seats – you could almost feel the tension.
Judging the pin end to perfection, Team Vestas Wind, flying the Danish Flag, may have been the last entry for the race but was the first to cross the start line. Mapfre got away well but a problem with a halyard lock cost the Spanish team badly. Team Brunel also suffered gear failure snapping part of the furling mechanism, early in the race.
Dongfeng Race Team, the first ever Chinese entry, surprised everyone with a daring port tack start, winning the right hand side of the course. Team SCA also chose the right but was late to the line and was compromised by Dongfeng Race Team. The Chinese entry’s bold moved definitely paid off, as they were leading on approach to the first mark on starboard. Team Vestas Wind coming in from the other side of the course on port, managed to get the inside line before the mark and once overlapped, legally barged in to take the lead.
Perhaps the two leaders became too pre-occupied with their own private battle. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing spotted the wind direction favoring the other side of the course, and by the end of leg two, the team representing the UAE had taken the lead by some margin. What is more, the young guns on the American/Turkish entry, Team Alvimedica, had stayed out of trouble passing Team Vestas Wind and Dongfeng Race Team. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing looked set to clinch victory but there was one more twist in the tale.
On leg three, Team Alvimedica spotted a new shift in the wind and looked to get an extra puff of breeze as well. This advantage was used to perfection to pass Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing. Approaching the finish, the nerves were showing asTeam Alvimedica nearly messed up their last gybe, allowing Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing a glimmer of hope. But Team Alvimedica, skippered by Charlie Enright, held on to take the gun by just five seconds.
So, first blood to Team Alvimedica, but what does that mean? To be honest, it would be foolish to suggest that the result is any real form guide to the outcome of over 40,000 miles of ocean racing. However, tactics, sail handling and equipment problems all contributed to the result of this first battle. These issues, and how the teams handle them, will certainly help decide the winner of the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race.
The seven teams will begin the first offshore leg, the 6487 nm test through the Mediterranean and Atlantic Oceans, from Alicante to Cape Town, South Africa, on October 11.