Volvo Ocean Race: Elapsed Time versus Points Scoring

Published on March 3rd, 2015

The teams competing in the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race will complete 9 offshore legs, using the Low Point System to determine the winner. OC Sport and its Executive Chairman Mark Turner, responsible for running the Dongfeng Race Team, compares the current scoring system to the elapsed time scoring used in earlier editions of the race….

1425338277_fullSo what would the points look like if we used the system from the old Whitbread days? It was a frustration for Dongfeng’s navigator Pascal Bidegorry when we arrived in Sanya after the third leg from Abu Dhabi – all that effort for a 1 point advantage!

In fact if elapsed time was used in this edition, the only change on the leaderboard ranking would be the current tie between Abu Dhabi and Dongfeng would go to us instead Abu Dhabi, which now has the lead due to the tie-breaking system now which uses the points from the In Port races. See scoreboard.

Of course one factor missing is that Alvimedica’s point bonus for standing by Vestas on Leg 2 would have been treated differently too.

The move to a points based system in the past was in part at least forced by commercial pressures. The sponsors of teams that had been putting in increasingly large amount of money for ever-more expensive one-off designs, and they were being hit pretty hard when a technical failure on one leg would basically rule them out of the entire race in terms of final results.

When Sir Peter Blake won on Steinlager 2 in 1989-90, he won with a 6 out of 6 leg win – but it nearly came to an end on the final leg when the runner on the mizzen broke. They saved it – but one comment for sure then was that it would have been maybe wrong that time lost on leg 6 could have undone the whole emphatic win he had masterminded.

But then, sailing around the world is meant to be just that – all the way around. Warts, and breakages and all.

So now with the introduction of the one design Volvo Open 65, SO FAR significantly more reliable than the one-off boats of the past few editions, its maybe time to look at the scoring system again for future editions. Seems to be a more genuine way of scoring a round the world race – and if nothing else, it should be the tie-breaker in a points based system.

The In Port races are commercially important in the pitch to venues – so for sure there needs to be an incentive to keep them interesting – but maybe they can just provide a small time bonus, either to a tie-breaker or the actual full results if the move was made back to that for the overall win. Just like in cycling, with mountain top, sprint or top 3 bonuses that are used sometimes in the Tour de France.

One thing it might do is to give more incentive for radical options, breaking away from the AIS-driven fleet mentality pervading today. And radical options make for more interesting viewing – the successful Brunel and SCA move on leg 4 showed it. Even if they didn’t manage to convert it in the end, their great move to the north was exactly the stuff we need to keep it interesting. In some ways with the fleet being so close now on a long straight line leg, it can actually get pretty boring without options…

We had this discussion at Dongfeng BEFORE we ended up in the situation we are today…of course today, but could easily be different after future legs, its puts us in the lead. That should keep Pascal happy for a bit anyway…

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