Volvo Ocean Race: He (or she) who dares, wins (maybe)

Published on February 11th, 2015

(February 11, 2015; Day 4) – In what has been the biggest leg split in the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race, SCA and Brunel have taken their courage in their hands with a push north for more wind in Leg 4 as the fleet entered the Pacific Ocean on Wednesday.

The two crews must wait around a week to discover if their tactics to head towards Taiwan – in apparently totally the wrong direction – have paid off. Early indications are that they could earn rich dividends on the 5,264 nm leg from Sanya, China to Auckland, New Zealand.

The pair have taken a wider arc, further north, after exiting the Luzon Strait between Taiwan and the Luzon Island of the Philippines.

It is a ‘fast lane’ route that will mean that they will sail roughly 300nm longer than their four rivals, but they are banking on better wind to propel them clear. Eventually.

“So far, the weather models say they have got it right, but it will be six or seven days – or even more – before we know for sure,” said the race’s official meteorologist, Gonzalo Infante.

This is the same move made by Kenny Read and his PUMA team in the 2011-12 race, where they sailed hundreds of miles north and east faster and further then the fleet to get first north for the stronger winds, then east for the stronger doldrums crossing. They caught all but one boat, Groupama.

“The danger for Team SCA and Team Brunel at that point will be as they enter a stretch of Doldrums, which can be random,” Infante cautioned. “But they could well end up in a very strong position by the time they reach the South Pacific.”

The pack of Abu Dhabi, Alvimedica Dongfeng, and MAPRE will have to wait it out to see if their plan of keeping close to the Philippines will work. It was at least a scenic plan, as Amory Ross on Alvimedica reports.

“The sun rose today to landfall and a pristine shoreline of beaches, breaks, and forest, nearly unspoiled were it not for a few tiny tents and outrigger canoes plying their rods in the reef.”

As for the rankings, they are now of little value. This race won’t be won for a while.

MORE: An independent report by professional navigator Campbell Field, and an onboard report from Brunel, provide more discussion on the longer route that Brunel and SCA have taken.

Leg 4 (5,264 nm) Position Report (as of 21:40 UTC)
1. MAPFRE, Xabi Fernandez (ESP), 4704.8 nm Distance to Finish
2. Dongfeng Race Team, Charles Caudrelier (FRA), .2 nm Distance to Lead
3. Team Alvimedica, Charlie Enright (USA), 1.5 nm DTL
4. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, Ian Walker (GBR), 1.8 nm DTL
5. Team Brunel, Bouwe Bekking (NED), 125.9 nm DTL
6. Team SCA, Sam Davies (GBR), 126.0 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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