Dongfeng Race Team: Volvo Ocean Race leg two preview

Published on November 17th, 2014

November 17, 2014 – After 25 days at sea in leg one, the crew of the Dongfeng Race Team are now preparing for the challenge of leg two from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi. This is another exceptionally tough oceanic marathon and although slightly shorter than leg one at 6,125 nautical miles, it is still the third longest leg of the race.

Setting sail from Cape Town on Wednesday, November 19, the bright red Chinese boat is likely to face strong and potentially boat-breaking headwinds as the crew, skippered by Frenchman Charles Caudrelier, hammers its way around the bottom of Africa.

Then Dongfeng will battle its way north against the south-flowing Agulhas Current before tackling light winds in the Indian Ocean. The crew will then face another appointment with the light and fickle winds of the Doldrums before beginning the long beat north towards the Gulf in increasingly hot conditions.

After their second place finish into Cape Town, just 12 minutes behind pre-race favorites Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing skippered by Ian Walker, Caudrelier is not taking anything for granted. His summary of the challenges of leg two is succinct: “complicated and dangerous.”

“You can break the boat in the first few days after the start and after that it is going to be very difficult, tackling the Doldrums again,” he said. “We know the Atlantic Doldrums very well but not many people have crossed these ones in the Indian Ocean so there is no feedback and no rules.“

Martin Stromberg, the only Swedish sailor in the fleet and a watch captain on Dongfeng, is hoping for a quick crossing of the Doldrums for the first time in his career. “I have never had a ‘good’ Doldrums and I would like to change that on the second leg,” he said.

Caudrelier knows that the Dongfeng team have made their mark on the race and their rivals will be keeping a close eye on them. But, again, he is not getting carried away and, in any case, he does not believe that his main competitors on the water ever saw him and his mainly French and Chinese crew as underdogs.

“I think it was more the people from outside the race who saw us as underdogs,” he explains. “All the other teams were respecting us. Maybe they didn’t rate us as highly as we have sailed in leg one, but I think they knew that we have good guys on board.”

Caudrelier will again be targeting a podium finish in Abu Dhabi but he knows it will not be easy. “We have only done one leg so we have to be careful not to get carried away and remember that in the middle of that last leg in the Atlantic we were down in fifth position,” he said.

“But we always say that if we are not on the podium, it will be a bad result for me. I know we have a special crew, we have rookies on board with only six months of sailing experience…but if you compare where we were at the start to where we are now, we are not in too bad a position.”

In the 2011-12 edition, the boats were shipped from the Maldives to Sharjah during the same stage because of the threat of attack from pirates in the Indian Ocean. They were also transported over the same stretch by the ship for Leg 3. Since then the problem of piracy in the Indian Ocean has decreased dramatically following pan-national intervention and the only activity that has been recorded recently has been in the far west, well outside the route of the Volvo Ocean Race fleet.

As such, the seven-strong fleet will sail all the way from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi after the event’s security experts gave the all-clear following a big decrease in piracy.

However, there will be two exclusion zones in place that would keep the fleet well clear of any possible problems but these are much less restrictive than the sailors were advised prior to Leg 1 in early October. The two exclusion zones will occur off the coast of East Africa and the Iranian coast.

The African Exclusion Zone is a great circle line between: Maputo (east coast of South Africa), Madagascar, Mauritius and the outside of the TSS zone at the eastern edge of Oman. While racing a boat shall not cross this line.

The Iranian Exclusion Zone is formed by positions used to form a line. Straight lines between adjacent marks shall form an obstruction that boats shall leave to starboard.

And if the above makes you think of hot climates, a reality check confirms in the form of the ‘Ice Limits’ as the fleet firstly head south back into the dangerous Southern Ocean. The ‘Ice Limits’ are positions used to form an imaginary line that Boats shall leave to starboard. 45o 00.000S 20o 00.000E, 45o 00.000S 30o 00.000E

But before all of that will come the start itself, to give the spectators a good run for their money, the fleet cross the start line then race around four race marks before the dash to Abu Dhabi begins.

Event Website

Report by Dongfeng Race Team media

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