(November 7, 2017; Leg 2, Day 3) – As the Volvo Ocean Race fleet continued to work their way south in the north Atlantic at breakneck speeds today, a crucial decision that could ultimately affect the overall outcome of Leg 2 was looming.
With boat speeds soaring close to 30 knots as the VO65s charge downwind on a tradewind-powered sleigh ride, crew are dealing with both the physical demands of such extreme sailing along with a mental game as they try to choose the ideal moment to head more directly south.
At this stage of the leg, while it feels good to sit atop the official rankings, it is more important for boat placement decision to address the weather that lies ahead. The big decision revolves around whether it will pay to be further west or further south.
Not only must the crews avoid a huge wind shadow in the lee of the Canary Islands but also consider the best possible crossing point for the Doldrums, the ever-moving band of low pressure lying three-plus days away to the south.
“The plan is to catch maximum pressure,” said Dongfeng navigator Pascal Bidegorry. “To do this we have got to get to the west. Tonight will be key to the race, especially regarding our position to the west compared to the Doldrums. We have to make a good decision tonight.”
With a forecast for the breeze to ease over the next few days, the focus for each of the teams is to make as many gains as possible before they have to throw their cards on the table.
Aside from Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag, which has split and is digging west, the fleet is playing chess with each other as they each use the shifts to step west.
“We have to gybe with every single shift and play with the stacking (sails on the windward side of the boat), and that’s really a nuisance since it is quite heavy due to the water all over the place,” reports MAPFRE’s Antonio ‘Neti’ Cuervas-Mons. “But hey, these will be a couple of hard days and then the wind will drop and everything will be calmer.”
The boats are given position reports only four times per day, at 0100, 0700, 1300 and 1900 (all times UTC). But once per leg, each team has the option to go into ‘Stealth Mode’ whereby its position is withheld from the rest of the fleet (and us) for three consecutive position reports. This can be used to tactical advantage to make a break for what is perceived as better wind, or to hit a layline, or choose what side to pass an island, etc. The only restriction is that teams are not allowed to go into Stealth Mode when they are within 200 miles of the finish. The approach to the doldrums is a classic opportunity to utilize this tactic. Watch for it over the coming days.
New ‘Ranking Waypoint’:
Race management has added a new ‘Ranking Waypoint’ into the tracker so that the rankings better reflect the tactical positions of the teams during the early part of Leg 2. Note this is NOT a new mark of the course that the teams need to pass. Instead, it is a virtual waypoint that has been added to the software that is positioned near the mid-point of the expected doldrums crossing point. This intention is to give a more realistic ranking through the approach to the doldrums as well as an updated distance to finish that is closer to what the teams will actually sail.
Leg 2 – Position Report (21:24 UTC)
1. Vestas 11th Hour Racing (DEN/USA), Charlie Enright (USA), 4896.0 nm DTF
2. Dongfeng Race Team (CHN), Charles Caudrelier (FRA) 9.5 nm DTL
3. MAPFRE (ESP), Xabi Fernández (ESP) 10.4 nm DTL
4. Turn the Tide on Plastic (POR), Dee Caffari (GBR) 15.9 nm DTL
5. Team AkzoNobel (NED), Simeon Tienpont (NED) 21.7 nm DTL
6. Team Brunel (NED), Bouwe Bekking (NED) 29.6 nm DTL
7. Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag (HKG), David Witt (AUS) 76.1 nm DTL
DTF – Distance to Finish; DTL – Distance to Leader
To see the crew lists… click here.
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: Scuttlebutt, Volvo Ocean Race