Volvo Ocean Race: Lining up for Sprint

Published on November 19th, 2017

(November 19, 2017; Leg 2, Day 15) – There are new leaders heading into the final week of racing in Leg 2 of the Volvo Ocean Race while the fleet is battling for position in the South Atlantic. It’s taken a nerve-racking couple of days, but the leading boats have now all gybed and pointed their bows east at the finish line off Cape Town, still some 2,200 nautical miles away.

Abby Ehler, boat captain on Team Brunel, who were first to gybe thinks that this is the line up for the final sprint. Her tweet from the crew communicator giving credit to navigator Andrew Cape read: “We have just completed ‘THE’ gybe. This is us to Cape Town Port Gybe all the way! Capey on a roll playing chess like a master!”

The upbeat sentiment extends to Vestas 11th Hour Racing, next to gybe, and positioned just in behind Brunel as they have been for much of the last week. “The mood on board has been particularly good this evening, no doubt as we have finally turned the boat and are pointing the bow roughly in the direction of Cape Town,” wrote navigator Simon Fisher.

“We have spent much of the day heading south west with the distance to the waypoint steadily growing albeit at a modest rate so it feels good to be finally getting closer to our destination.

“Tactically it has also been good to see the south start to pay-out after a series of scheds where the boats in the north continued to look strong despite being closer to the high. After what feels like an eternity of waiting it was good to see us finally make some gains against them. Never content however I can’t help kicking myself a little for not going more aggressively south with Brunel but sometimes it is hard to play the percentages with boats on both sides.

“That said it has been comforting to see Brunel pop up on the AIS this evening as we prepared to gybe meaning we are still very much in the hunt with them despite them putting on another strong showing in the last 24 hours.”

This morning, with most of the leading group having finally gybed and sailing an easterly track towards Cape Town, Team Brunel defied expectations and turned back to the southwest in an effort to get closer to the stronger winds of a weather system that is expected to deliver the leading group towards their destination. Before the gybe, Brunel skipper Bouwe Bekking explained the trade-offs in play.

“One more very important decision to make is to get the timing right for the most likely final gybe into Cape Town,” he wrote. “You go too early, you sail a shorter distance, but with a chance to have less breeze. You go too late and you sail too many miles. So this is a crucial one to set us up. But even after that it is far from over. If you look long term, there are some very tricky passages still to come on this leg.”

Bekking needn’t look far to see the stakes in play. Dongfeng Race Team, who had been leading for much of Leg 2, appeared to cut the corner too close, sailing too far to the east, and were punished immediately for getting too close to the light wind area.

Just over 24 hours ago, Dongfeng Racing team was strongly positioned to the south of the fleet, alongside MAPFRE, but gave up that position by delaying a gybe to the southwest. As a result, the team found itself positioned further east, closer to the light winds of the high pressure system, and paid a steep price.

“We’re f$%*ked,” is how navigator Pascal Bidegorry put it to the crew after coming on deck with the afternoon position report. While that may be an exaggeration, it is certainly clear on the tracker that Dongfeng is in a much more difficult position now than they have been. And after leading for most of the leg, they now appear to be fighting for third place.

“Of course it’s not a very good mood on board today; we lost so much in 24 hours,” wrote skipper Charles Caudrelier. “We were in a perfect situation and we made a big mistake, playing too much with the high pressure and the light air, but six days to come back, and we never give up. We want a podium and we will fight until the end.”

After days of explaining away the rankings, with all the boats now pointing towards Cape Town, today’s 19:00 UTC position report is a much more accurate reflection of reality. But, with 2,200 miles and nearly a week of sailing still to go, there’s plenty of racing left on Leg 2, and plenty of time for things to change.

“MAPFRE has made a big play to the south and it looks like they’ve got more pressure down there so it will be interesting to see how that plays out over the next couple of days. We should see them move forward on us in the next couple of skeds. They look like the boat to beat right now.

“But there’s a lot of opportunity left. It looks pretty messy between here and Cape Town. Anybody could still win,” Vestas 11th Hour Racing watch captain and team director Mark Towill commented.

Note: This is the stage of the race where the rankings may be totally skewed, as a team committed to the south track falls back while any team hedging to the east to cut the corner instantly jumps up. The rankings will likely be in state of flux until the very end.

Leg 2 – Position Report (19:00 UTC)
1. MAPFRE (ESP), Xabi Fernández (ESP) 2197.2 nm DTF
2. Team Brunel (NED), Bouwe Bekking (NED) 15.1 nm DTL
3. Dongfeng Race Team (CHN), Charles Caudrelier (FRA) 40.4 nm DTL
4. Vestas 11th Hour Racing (DEN/USA), Charlie Enright (USA), 44.7 nm DTL
5. Team AkzoNobel (NED), Simeon Tienpont (NED) 62.2 nm DTL
6. Turn the Tide on Plastic (POR), Dee Caffari (GBR) 73.4 nm DTL
7. Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag (HKG), David Witt (AUS) 74.7 nm DTL
DTF – Distance to Finish; DTL – Distance to Leader

To see the crew lists… click here.

Race detailsLive contentScoreboardRace routeFacebookYouTube

The second leg of the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race started November 5 and is expected to take three weeks for the seven teams to complete the 7000 nm course from Lisbon, Portugal to Cape Town, South Africa.

2017-18 Edition: Entered Teams – Skippers
Team AkzoNobel (NED), Simeon Tienpont (NED)
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.

Source: Volvo Ocean Race

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