Volvo Ocean Race in the ‘Sea of Certain Breakage’

Published on February 9th, 2015

(February 9, 2015; Day 2) – It did not take long for the Volvo Ocean Race fleet to rendezvous with the predicted forecast, which had called for brutal upwind sailing conditions.

“This has thus far undoubtedly been the toughest of the race to date,” reports Matt Knighton on Abu Dhabi. “The wind on our bow soon turned from mild and pleasant to nasty and unrelenting. Unrelenting in that the unpredictability of what is in front of us is overwhelming. There’s no rhythm to the waves.”

With winds touching 30 knots and waves up to 14 feet, the race is living up to its reputation.

“We finally are getting what we came for – life at the extreme,” remarked SCA skipper Sam Davies. “Extreme angles of heel, extreme – ly WET, extreme levels of difficulty in doing ANYTHING on board.”

The strong winds are the consequence of high pressure between Shanghai and Qingdao, causing a robust northeast monsoon along the route to the Strait of Luzon, between Taiwan and the Philippines where the fleet is heading, some 300 nm ahead.

It will be a long one tack beat on port, and only a tack if they can’t lay the Philippines, a line they are currently just under. Most of the tactical choices that will determine the leg will happen after rounding the Philippines; right now it’s a war of attrition to see who will make it in one piece.

Abu Dhabi skipper Ian Walker just refers to the South China Sea as the “Sea of Certain Breakage”. He would know, in the 2008-09 race he was forced to anchor with other teams in the Philippines after sustaining significant damage.

If not boat breaking, than certainly crew testing. “We have some crew members struggling to find their sea legs, and so we are looking after them,” notes Davies. “If you get sick, you are allowed a Coke and Ginger Nuts, so there is a small bonus to the misery of seasickness.”

Silver lining…

Leg 4 (5,264 nm) Position Report (as of 21:40 UTC)
1. Dongfeng Race Team, Charles Caudrelier (FRA), 5010.6 nm Distance to Finish
2. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, Ian Walker (GBR), 3.3 nm Distance to Lead
3. MAPFRE, Xabi Fernandez (ESP), 5.4 nm DTL
4. Team Alvimedica, Charlie Enright (USA), 7.8 nm DTL
5. Team Brunel, Bouwe Bekking (NED), 9.4 nm DTL
6. Team SCA, Sam Davies (GBR), 12.1 DTL
7. Team Vestas Wind, Chris Nicholson (AUS), Did not start

Race websiteTrackingScoreboardVideos

Background: The 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race began in Alicante, Spain on Oct. 11 with the final finish on June 27 in Gothenburg, Sweden. Racing the new one design Volvo Ocean 65, seven 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. The fourth leg, from Sanya, China to Auckland, New Zealand (5,264 nm), began Feb. 8 with an ETA of Mar. 1-5.

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