Four Parts, Three Re-Starts

Published on November 20th, 2014

The second offshore leg of the Volvo Ocean Race extends 6,125 nm from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi, and despite all the experienced sailors competing, nobody has done the route. Jamie Boag, Team Director for race leader Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, shares his playbook for the route…

Marcel Van Triest, our weather genius, worked hard with our navigator Simon Fisher (Sifi) and skipper Ian Walker to try and plan for the leg as best we could. Offshore yacht racing is not about getting everything right, but about making fewer mistakes than our competitors, and managing risk, a strategy that was employed well in our win of Leg 1.

The route to our home port of Abu Dhabi is not a well-beaten path. This is the first time that we will have sailed all the way there, so there is little historic data, or ‘road map’ for the teams to follow. This is frontier territory.

Tactically it is in four parts.

Departing Cape Town the wind drops rapidly and the boats headed south to try and avoid a light wind area to the south of Madagascar. This will make the race tricky to follow on the tracker for the first five or six days as the distance to finish will be irrelevant.

Then the teams will have to decide when they start to turn left into the Indian Ocean. This decision will depend on another area of light winds to the east and how it develops. Once they have all turned, the tracker should be more useful.

The teams will then have to cross a double doldrums. Add to this the further complication of a tropical storm upsetting the first doldrums area and it could be ‘restart number one’.

Trade wind sailing will be the reward for the first through this area before approaching a second doldrums which could signal restart number two.

Once through, the teams will sail in the monsoon winds towards the Straits of Hormuz and the narrow entrance to the Gulf. Light winds are the order of the day and the potential for restart number three. Then it is a tricky navigational exercise dodging shipping lanes, international exclusions zones, sandbanks and oil rigs.

Whoever stands on top of the podium in Abu Dhabi will have sailed well, managed the tactical risk, looked after their equipment and, most of all, had a little bit of luck.

NOTE: The second offshore leg from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi started Nov. 19 with an ETA of Dec. 9-16.

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