Volvo Ocean Race: Drag Racing to Auckland

Published on February 25th, 2015

(February 25, 2015; Day 18) – Today was Ian Walker’s birthday and tomorrow is Charles Caudrelier’s one. Who will get what they wish for? Right in the middle of a drag race with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, Dongfeng’s Charles Caudrelier takes a moment to wish Ian Walker a happy 45th birthday, a priceless exchange between two great sailors.

Over the last day, their two boats, Dongfeng and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, who are still in the lead, have slowly turned to port. This is not due to a lift but to less wind. They are sailing VMG (Velocity Made Good) angles, and less wind equals a higher course sailed to maintain the same apparent wind over their sails.

The drop in wind velocity was from 14 down to 9 knots. This affected the leaders with a loss to the pack. The boats at the back are expected to sail through the same light patch. The wind will slowly oscillate on their path to Auckland, affecting the fleet depending how much leverage east to west each boat has on each other.

MAPFRE still chases the pack while cautiously looking over their shoulder at Team Alvimedica. Team Brunel and Team SCA have made gains and will most lightly be pushing just as hard as the leaders as they can see each other on AIS. All eyes are on the high-pressure system forming over the North Island of New Zealand, as this might be the last twist in the tail of this leg.

Having sailed over 6,500 nautical miles since Sanya, passing islands and hunting for the trade winds all around the Pacific Ocean, the fleet is aligning and closing in on the leader. The six boats are heading straight towards Auckland, some 600nm away. They’re due to arrive in New Zealand on Saturday.

“This is not a match race,” blogged Matt Knighton from Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing this morning, his team caught in an oceanic duel with Dongfeng. “There are no tactics involved, it’s a pure drag race. Sail as fast as you can in a straight line and show Farr just how quick you can push these boats. We’ll likely be covering each other the entire way now regardless of the routings. If one boat chooses to take a different route, the other one will follow the change to cover.”

There are a couple of options available, but it would be very risky to break from the pack at this stage, it will most likely come down to who sails this given straight line the fastest, not who picks a different one.

MORE: Forecasting service expects the anticipated light winds, changeable wind directions, wind shadows of islands down the coast, and tidal currents to keep the teams busy. For full report click here.

Leg 4 (5,264 nm) Position Report (as of 21:55 UTC)
1. Dongfeng Race Team, Charles Caudrelier (FRA), 596.0 nm Distance to Finish
2. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, Ian Walker (GBR), 3.2 nm Distance to Lead
3. MAPFRE, Xabi Fernandez (ESP), 12.4 nm DTL
4. Team Alvimedica, Charlie Enright (USA), 40.0 nm DTL
5. Team Brunel, Bouwe Bekking (NED), 53.2 nm DTL
6. Team SCA, Sam Davies (GBR), 57.6 nm 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 Feb. 27-28.

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