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Charles Caudrelier: Reporting from the peloton

Published on February 13th, 2015

Dongfeng Race Team was not the favorite to be leading the Volvo Ocean Race after three legs, but that is exactly where they sit in the standings. Team skipper Charles Caudrelier files this report on the fourth leg, from Sanya, China to Auckland, New Zealand (5,264 nm), which began Feb. 8 with an ETA of Mar. 1-5.

(February 13, 2015; Day 6) – We’ve got a 7 day speed run ahead of us. We’re in a peloton of 4 boats, we can all see each other except for Abu Dhabi, who we catch a glimpse of every now and then on the AIS tracking.

This system allows us to see the position, speed and heading every few minutes of the competition, and therefore know if we are faster or slower. It’s also useful for knowing what the intentions of our competitors are in terms of routing, although beyond 20km we lose the signal.

Its extremely difficult to know right down to a few degrees what the optimum route is towards the equator, that we should cross in 7 to 8 days time.

Just a 1 or 2 degree difference in heading will produce some pretty big lateral separation after 8 days.

So the question we are all asking ourselves is should we sail a bit tighter to the wind, heading further east but a bit slower in order to avoid tacking to get across the Equator, or a more westerly route to go faster now and hope that the wind will let us across on one tack.

In the meantime, we all stay together and just try to go faster than each other. The results are positive, apart from against Abu Dhabi, we’re faster than the other two.

But it’s hard work onboard. The wind is very variable as well as the sea state. We have to trim the sails constantly, as well as the weight onboard, and the height of the daggerboard. And all that with 20 degrees of heel with a lot of water coming across the deck.

But we are not complaining, we are in the warmest of all the oceans, the Pacific. Too hot even! In a few days time the water will have warmed up to 28°C. Hot shower on the bow! Images coming soon! Everyone will think we are so lucky when they see these images of our life in paradise. But apart from the hot shower, life onboard is becoming pretty tough, certainly down below.

This leg remains one of my worst memories of the last Volvo Ocean Race. Wrapped in oilskins in 30 to 35°C is not fun. Live and sleep during the day inside our boat, which becomes like a Hammam in the sun, is pretty horrible.

I’m complaining a lot I know – and on the next leg I’ll be complaining about the cold. I am French after all, it’s in our culture to complain a lot!

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.

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