Volvo Ocean Race: Looking to Christmas

Published on December 23rd, 2017

(December 23, 2017; Leg 3, Day 14) – With just over 300 nautical miles to go to the finishing line off Melbourne, MAPFRE is on a final push to draw first blood on the double-point scoring Leg 3 of the Volvo Ocean Race. MAPFRE is racing Dongfeng and St. Nick in an effort to arrive in Melbourne ahead of Christmas.

Before they can add to their advantage on the leaderboard, the Spanish team must negotiate a pesky high-pressure system threatening to encroach from the west, bringing lighter winds, not to mention the tricky currents and tidal gates between them and the finish line.

But with a lead of nearly 100 nautical miles, they are in a very enviable position.

“It’s looking that way. It’s been a tough leg and until yesterday it’s been so tight with Dongfeng and we’ve been pushing so hard,” said skipper Xabi Fernández Saturday afternoon. “Now it’s true, we have stretched a lot and if we don’t have any problem we should be all good.”

The key to being in this position today, Fernández explained, came from their strategy earlier in the leg, when they resisted the temptation to do something ‘crazy’ and instead just kept it close, tucked in tight behind Dongfeng when the Chinese/French team was the early leg leader.

Fernández added: “It was so important to always keep it tight. And sometimes the way to do that is to follow the leader. We fought very hard to keep it always close and then of course every new system is an opportunity for the guy behind and we took it. It was hard when we were chasing them – they are hard to catch – and then the feeling when we passed them is unbelievable”.

Dongfeng Race Team is dealing with its first serious technical issue of the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race after a failure in the canting keel mechanism that has disabled the port ram.

The problem is now under control and there is no immediate concern for the safety of the boat or the crew. However when the failure was discovered, the crew spent several hours making running repairs, replacing hydraulic oil that had leaked out of the canting system and conducting other checks, while the boat was continuing at reduced pace.

The detailed nature of the failure has yet to be fully explained but there is every hope that the Dongfeng Race Team shore crew, alongside staff from the Volvo Ocean Race Boatyard, will be able to get the problem fixed in time for the start of Leg 4 from Melbourne to Hong Kong on January 2, 2018.

However a complicating factor will be the race rules that restrict to two the number of shore crew that are allowed to work on any of the boats during what is – to all intents and purposes, a pit-stop in Melbourne.

The Dongfeng Race Team boat captain, Graham Tourell, who is in Melbourne awaiting the arrival of the boat, said: “We have been speaking to the crew and liaising with the Volvo Ocean Race Boatyard to ensure that as soon as Dongfeng arrives in Melbourne, inspections and repairs can get underway to ensure the boat is race ready in time for the next leg to Hong Kong.”

The setback for Dongfeng Race Team comes as she continues to sail the last (just under) 500 nautical miles to the Leg 3 finish at Melbourne. The Chinese-flagged red and white Volvo Ocean 65 is currently in second place for the leg, just under 100 miles behind leader MAPFRE and is currently expected to arrive in Melbourne between 2000 – 2300 UTC on the 24th December. Dongfeng is now back up to full pace, sailing downwind and making more than 18 knots of boatspeed in 17 knots of breeze.

The keel issue is a worry for skipper Charles Caudrelier in the closing stages of a leg which has seen his team push the boat hard in heavy weather. But in his favour is the rapidly dwindling remaining race distance and the fact that the westerly breeze is likely to ease as the boat closes on Port Phillip Bay.

“We managed to make an alternative system with only one ram but it has been a tough job,” said Caudrelier. “We lost 10-15 miles and this is not very good for us because we could be really close to Vestas or Brunel. The back of the fleet took a totally different routing option and they are coming back very fast. Let’s hope this is not a loss that will cost us second place. So let’s go, because I think we deserve this second place.”

Bowman Jack Bouttell gave his summary of the problem: “The whole fitting of the port keel ram, which pushes the keel from side to side, is cracked where it attaches to the boat,” he said.

“We are not sure how it happened but we think it is from the hull slamming in the seaway. A lot of water came in and filled up the majority of the boat and we lost oil in the system, so the keel was floating around and there was nothing holding it in place.

“We switched off the port hydraulic ram so it is not in the system and then put new oil in the starboard ram and we are trying to get it to work again with just the starboard ram, but it is a bit of a mess at the moment with a lot of water everywhere.

“We just managed to cant the keel using just the starboard ram,” Bouttell added, “so we are going to check now that it stays with the pressure and keep an eye on it for a while, but fingers crossed we’ve got it working.”

Behind the leading pair, there is intrigue in the battle for the final podium position between Vestas 11th Hour Racing and Team Brunel. At one point last night, Brunel jumped ahead on the distance to finish measurement for a short burst, before the Vestas team clawed back the lead. And then, skipper Charlie Enright and navigator Simon Fisher (SiFi) elected to go into Stealth Mode.

“We use Stealth Mode when there’s something going on tactically,” explained SiFi. “Brunel have been chasing hard the last few days, and applying a bit of pressure. The gybe last night and our moment to choose when to come back to the north is important so we thought going in to Stealth Mode would keep them guessing a bit as to exactly where we are. There are some tactical options as to how far east/west you want to be when you start to head to Melbourne and if they don’t know where we are they’re forced to pick their own lane.”

For the chasing three, it’s a matter of getting far enough east to avoid the light winds of the high pressure system, before turning up north towards the finish. That left hand turn will be welcomed by the crews, as each mile to the north brings warmer wind and water temperatures.

The current ETAs see MAPFRE and Dongfeng arriving on December 24 (UTC); Vestas, Brunel, Scallywag and Turn the Tide on Christmas Day; and AkzoNobel on December 27.


To see Leg 3 crew lists… click here.

Race detailsTrackerScoreboardRace routeFacebookYouTube

Leg 3 – Position Report (19:00 UTC)
1. MAPFRE (ESP), Xabi Fernández (ESP), 316.3 nm DTF
2. Dongfeng Race Team (CHN), Charles Caudrelier (FRA), 97.6 nm DTL
3. Vestas 11th Hour Racing (DEN/USA), Charlie Enright (USA), 114.4 nm DTL
4. Team Brunel (NED), Bouwe Bekking (NED), 130.6 nm DTL
5. Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag (HKG), David Witt (AUS), 455.5 nm DTL
6. Turn the Tide on Plastic (POR), Dee Caffari (GBR), 489.2 nm DTL
7. Team AkzoNobel (NED), Simeon Tienpont (NED), 805.5 nm DTL
DTF – Distance to Finish; DTL – Distance to Leader

Overall Results (after 2 of 11 legs)
1. MAPFRE (ESP), Xabi Fernández (ESP), 14 points
2. Vestas 11th Hour Racing (DEN/USA), Charlie Enright (USA), 13
3. Dongfeng Race Team (CHN), Charles Caudrelier (FRA), 11
4. Team AkzoNobel (NED), Simeon Tienpont (NED), 7
5. Team Brunel (NED), Bouwe Bekking (NED), 6
6. Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag (HKG), David Witt (AUS), 5
7. Turn the Tide on Plastic (POR), Dee Caffari (GBR), 2

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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