Playing God with offshore racing

Published on May 8th, 2018

As technology evolves to modify DNA in humans, opponents of genetic engineering worry about unknown effects on future generations and the temptation for future parents to pay for enhancements such as greater intelligence or athletic ability. Playing God will have unintended consequences, they say.

But as it pertains to offshore racing, it may be time for us to start meddling.

In fairness, meddling has already occurred. The once daily roll call which gave teams a glimpse of their opponent’s location has been replaced with AIS and more frequent updates. Tracking tools, though often delayed, provide each boat’s path, while routing software limit the chance of getting caught on the “wrong side of the course.”

Now it’s time to review changes at the finish, and it’s on the Volvo Ocean Race to be the leader.

The race organizers proved they could play God by modifying the course length of Leg 1 to ensure the teams finished at a fan-friendly hour. This was done by adding a leg near the end of the course which had no prior bearing on tactical decisions.

When the teams on Leg 4 approached Hong Kong in darkness, with strong winds whipping the boats through congested fishing grounds, a lack of visibility contributed to a fatal collision. The arrival time of the teams was known, and an adjusted course length could have assured a daylight finish.

The end of Leg 8 in Newport provides another reason to consider playing God, as explained by David J LaJuett of Rockville, MD:

“My sad impression after following the VOR Leg 8 to Newport is that the result is grossly unfair for all concerned. And given this level of unfairness, I believe the organizers need to take a deep look into this.

“For an offshore race to see the result decided by a few miles of fluky no-wind inshore drifting about is just wrong. Apparently MAPFRE won by merest chance of a slight puff of wind, after Team Brunel had led for thousands of offshore miles.

“This sort of total park-up at the end of a leg results in a complete negation of major offshore racing achievements. Sport is chancy, yes, but it must go by rules that ensure some basic fairness. The race organizer is not now doing this.”

Do you have an opinion on adjusting an offshore course length for spectators, safety, or fairness? Submit it to

Race detailsTrackerScoreboardRace routeFacebookYouTube

Leg 8 – Final Results
1. MAPFRE (ESP), Xabi Fernández (ESP), Finished on May 8 at 10:44:29 UTC
2. Team Brunel (NED), Bouwe Bekking (NED), Finished on May 8 at 10:45:30 UTC
3. Vestas 11th Hour Racing (DEN/USA), Charlie Enright (USA), Finished on May 8 at 10:59:04 UTC
4. Dongfeng Race Team (CHN), Charles Caudrelier (FRA), Finished on May 8 at 11:25:21 UTC
5. Team AkzoNobel (NED), Simeon Tienpont (NED), Finished on May 8 at 12:21:22 UTC
6. Turn the Tide on Plastic (POR), Dee Caffari (GBR), Finished on May 8 at 12:24:14 UTC
7. Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag (HKG), David Witt (AUS), Finished on May 8 at 13:56:52 UTC
DTF – Distance to Finish; DTL – Distance to Lead

Overall Results (after 8 of 11 legs)
1. MAPFRE (ESP), Xabi Fernández (ESP), 53 points
2. Dongfeng Race Team (CHN), Charles Caudrelier (FRA), 50
3. Team Brunel (NED), Bouwe Bekking (NED), 42
4. Team AkzoNobel (NED), Simeon Tienpont (NED), 36
5. Vestas 11th Hour Racing (DEN/USA), Charlie Enright (USA), 28
6. Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag (HKG), David Witt (AUS), 27
7. Turn the Tide on Plastic (POR), Dee Caffari (GBR), 22

COURSE: Starting on April 22, Leg 8 takes the teams from Itajaí, Brazil to Newport, USA. Race organizers choose to estimate the tactical distance for each leg rather than list the actual distance, an unusual decision that’s revealed once the race starts and the tracker lists the actual distance to finish. The organizers say Leg 8 is 5700 nm whereas the actual distance from the tracker is 5027 nm.

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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