Countdown to Volvo Ocean Race

Published on October 17th, 2017

On October 22 at 1200 UTC, the longest endurance race in the world begins, the Volvo Ocean Race. Libby Greenhalgh, who was navigator for Team SCA in the 2014-15 edition, shares insight as the seven teams prepare for this eight month challenge.

Libby Greenhalgh

The Kit
The one-design VO65s are back on the start line again with some modifications to the on-board systems, in particular now running with the B&G H5000 system, and new positioning of the boat speed sensor will mean teams have better more consistent data to work with and continue to push performance. With the experience of racing these boats before, teams will again be going quicker than last time.

The sail-locker has been expanded to include a J0, a light upwind jib and a fast reaching sail for medium to fresh conditions. It slots in-between the J1 and MH0 (Masthead Zero), which has been made flatter and slightly smaller.

With the recent light to moderate winds on Leg0 and the Prologue race, I am sure the teams have been working hard to fine tune where the crossovers are on this sail and there will definitely be an edge to have here, with teams that identify this sooner.

The Teams
The composition of the teams has changed as Volvo Ocean Race lead the way in making a mixed team rule (men and women) which has resulted in one completely mixed crew with 10 people and then the majority of the teams running with 9 people (7 men, 2 women) and one team wanting to keep light and only having 8 (7 men, 1 woman).

It will be interesting to see whether other teams change their crew composition as they go round and play with having one less crew member and therefore saving weight or stick with 9.

Some of the teams are also running a squad system which means crews will rotate, we will see new faces, more people are getting experience and exposure to the race and team dynamics will be changing and no doubt performance with it.

Form Guide
I am going to pick Team MAPFRE, biased slightly by the fact my brother Robert Greenhalgh is on it, but also form so far shows that will more than likely be leading the way at the beginning having won the cumulative Leg 0, the Prologue race and the In-Port Race.

Dongfeng are yet again on the pace and as one the boats with the most training as a team and time in the boat I would expect that these two boats initially will be having a little fight of their own.

But as we saw on Team SCA, as the race goes everyone gets to pace and by the end anyone can win a leg. This is where we will see teams like Turn the Tide and Scallywag begin to come into the mix as they are probably the two teams with either the least experienced people or least experience in the race.

The dark horse for me is Team Brunel, late to the game but putting some strong players on board and surely at his 8th time as skipper it must Bouwe’s turn.

TeamVestas are back under a slightly different guise with former Alvimedica skipper pulling together a team including previous race winners Simon Fisher and Phil Harmer on Abu Dhabi. With Simon Fisher at the navigation table, I am sure this team will be making few mistakes on where they go and last time they openly talked about not taking big risks and being consistent. Will they run the same strategy?

Finally Team Akzonobel, one of the earliest teams to announce and have a brand new boat, but currently surrounded in a little bit of controversy with crew members changing teams and more recently and abruptly the skipper parting way. But looking through all that smoke, this team has the potential to succeed with Brad Jackson and Joca Signori bringing a wealth of experience and success.

The Course
The course has also changed. Going back to what many would say was a more traditional route and putting a lot more sea miles in the Southern Ocean and hopefully increasing the 12 knot average windspeed from the last, making it faster and more engaging for sailors and fans alike.
Volvo Ocean Race Route

In this edition the race will consist of 11 legs versus 9 legs, with a high scoring system, 8 points for 1st, 7 for 2nd and so on. But it is not entirely that straight forward.

The legs starting in Cape Town, Auckland and Newport will be double points, a team will get a bonus point for winning a leg, there are additional points up for grabs for first past Cape Horn and the boat with lowest overall elapsed time to do the race. Then finally Leg 5, when the teams wiggle their way from Hong Kong into Guangzhou, they’ll all get a point for taking part!

Any tie breakers will once again be decided by the In-Port series which last time came down to the last leg of the last race to decide the overall finishing spot between Mapfre and Alvimedica, so it’s not over until it’s over.

Race detailsTrackerScoreboardRace routeFacebook

The first leg of the Volvo Ocean Race will start on October 22 and extend 1450 nm from Alicante, Spain to Lisbon, Portugal via Porto Santo.

2017-18 Edition: Entered Teams – Skippers
Team AkzoNobel (NED), Brad Jackson (NZL)
Dongfeng Race Team (CHN), Charles Caudrelier (FRA)
MAPFRE (ESP), Xabi Fernández (ESP)
Vestas 11th Hour Racing (DEN/USA), Charlie Enright (USA)
Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag (HKG), David Witt (AUS)
Turn the Tide on Plastic (POR), Dee Caffari (GBR)
Team Brunel (NED), Bouwe Bekking (NED)

Background: Racing the one design Volvo Ocean 65, the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race begins in Alicante, Spain on October 22 2017 with the final finish in The Hague, Netherlands on June 30 2018. In total, the 11-leg race will visit 12 cities in six continents: Alicante, Lisbon, Cape Town, Melbourne, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Auckland, Itajaí, Newport, Cardiff, Gothenburg, and The Hague. A maximum of eight teams will compete.

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