Volvo Ocean 65 World Championship, Offshore edition
Published on October 17th, 2014
(October 17, 2014; Day 7) – The Volvo Ocean Race fleet continues to be closely bunched, sailing as close to the West African coast as possible with Dongfeng Race Team still retaining the overnight lead. The above photo was taken today onboard Dongfeng.
All seven boats were afraid to push out west into the open Atlantic until a more solid wind materializes. The average wind has been about 11 knots so giving the teams a chance to dry out.
The fleet has been gybing a lot with more place changes than ever before at this stage of the Volvo Ocean Race. This is intense inshore racing, gybe for gybe with your opposition breathing down your neck 24/7.
“It’s unbelievable, really – we have been short course racing these boats ever since we left Alicante,” notes Amory Ross onboard Team Alvimedica. “Cautiously cruising down the coast of Africa, close to the barren beaches of Western Sahara and Mauratania, Will and Charlie continue to place a huge emphasis on fleet positioning. In other words, we are sailing the boat very differently than if we were out here alone.”
While six of the teams are all within one wind shift of the lead, Team SCA has gotten dropped off the back. “We went from hero to zero, well not quite zero,” Team SCA Libby Greenhalghthe navigator explained. “We kind of knew it was coming because you could see the boats [sail away]. We had a tricky night and then in the morning we didn’t quite position ourselves correctly. We had the opportunity too which is more frustrating – we were within 2 miles of the boat that’s ahead of us.”
The weather conditions are a frequent topic for it is rare that the preferred course is so close to the coast. “These winds are mostly ‘seabreeze’ in nature, a combination of the Canary Current taking cooler North Atlantic water south towards the Equator, and the hot desert air to the east,” explained Ross. “As the land heats up during the day the breeze builds, and as predictable as that is there are headlands, bays, and shallows to avoid and the aim is to lead the fleet to them.
“If that means four midnight jibes within two hours just to stay to one side of Brunel – one of three boats we can currently see the lights of – then that’s what we do. It’s exhilarating and exhausting at the same time, and fascinating in that dinghy tactics still seem far more applicable than traditional offshore strategy.
“The biggest challenge so far has been our ability to manage rest, and I imagine it’s the same for everyone else. Much as we’d like to be able to sail around the world with everybody on deck all the time – it’s not possible and there’s a huge push to get guys back into their bunks after a maneuver. Just existing on these boats is tiring enough, but when interruption and a sleep schedules unpredictability take over, the needle on the gas tank rapidly approaches E.
“The good news is that this back and forth will eventually stop once we’re through the Verdes in a few days time, and then the routing has us locked into a long cruise downwind run through the consistent NE trade winds towards the Doldrums.”
Leg 1 Position Report (as of 15:40 UTC)
1. Dongfeng Race Team, Charles Caudrelier (FRA), 5230.8 nm Distance to Finish
2. Team Brunel, Bouwe Bekking (NED), 6.0 nm Distance to Lead
3. Team Alvimedica, Charlie Enright (USA), 7.0 nm DTL
4. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, Ian Walker (GBR), 7.0 nm DTL
5. Team Vestas Wind, Chris Nicholson (AUS), 8.0 nm DTL
6. Mapfre, Iker Martinez (ESP), 11.0 nm DTL
7. Team SCA, Sam Davies (GBR), 30.0 DTL
Background: The 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race began Leg 1 on October 11, which takes the 7 teams 6478 nm from Alicante, Spain to Cape Town, South Africa. ETA is Oct. 31 – Nov. 9. Racing the new one design Volvo Ocean 65, teams will be scoring points in 9 offshore legs to determine the overall Volvo Ocean Race winner. Additionally, the teams will compete in 10 In-Port races at each stopover for a separate competition – the Volvo Ocean Race In-Port Series. Final finish on June 27, 2015 in Gothenburg, Sweden.