My Playbook Leg 1 VOR

My Playbook Leg 1 VOR

Sunday October 12 2014 Author: henrybomby Location: United Kingdom

So the start of one of the greatest races/adventures in the world got under way yesterday, the Volvo Ocean Race. As a Figaro sailor the Volvo this time around has got a whole lot more interesting with the introduction of one design boats. The racing will be closer, and tactical options will most likely make one of the biggest differences out on the water. In this blog I am going to look at the first leg of the race from Alicante, Spain to Cape Town, South Africa and look at the different options on offer to the teams.


The leg can be broken down into 4 stages:

1) Exiting the Mediterranean

2) The Mid Atlantic

3) The Doldrums

4) The South Atlantic

Interestingly for this race the first two nights are spent exiting the Mediterranean, which provides additional challenges for the sailors and especially the navigators. With huge coastal effects, and thermal influences too, even at this time of year, meaning there can be huge holes out there on the race course.


On the first night it appears Team Vestas, who made a move away from the fleet at 0130, heading inshore by themselves, are the only boat to have not got trapped last night, seeing them hold a 2nm lead over 2nd placed Mapfre as it stands at 1100UT this afternoon. Abu Dhabi and Brunel got the worst of the shut downs being the most offshore, both losing heavily at 0300 this morning. Abu Dhabi cut their loses earlier than Brunel however and headed back inshore and are now up to 3rd as of this afternoon.

Perhaps the biggest decision of the leg will be once they exit the Mediterranean and pass through the Gibraltar straight and into the Atlantic. Last time around Groupama lost big by going South alone, and the first boats West, Telefonica and PUMA, did best. Although it looked good initially for Groupama, as you can see from Screenshot 1, a few days of fast reaching by Telefonica and PUMA out West and Groupama were eaten up as they sailed VMG downwind in the light. Check out how Leg 1 played out for last time around for yourself here –

VOR Leg 1 2012

Screenshot 1 – Groupama advanced nicely South intially

VOR Leg 1 2012 2

Screenshot 2 – How it played out last time, West was best

As it stands at the moment, I don’t believe a Westerly option will pay this time around (NOTE! As it stands at the moment!) and reckon all boats will follow a Southerly route sticking East of the ridge extending North/South and sailing downwind through the Canaries and Cape Verde’s. As you can see from the routings below getting West is made very hard work due to sailing directly upwind for 1000nm before being able to point the bow South. A too bigger price to pay I feel. Compared to last time when Telefonica and PUMA got West sailing downwind in South Easterly winds, able to head South after only 800nm of Westing. I ran a pivot (green) to see what the best Westerly option I could achieve was and as you can see it isn’t that pretty, after a week of sailing you will be 550nm further West but 800nm further North to the current optimal routing in blue. With Green having to come back East at some point in its the near future as well.

Leg 1 Volvo

So the trick will be when to head South. In what looks to be VMG downwind running in 10-15kts of breeze at around 130-140 TWA sailing both through the Canaries and the Cape Verdes for most likely increased wind as it funnels through the islands. There will be gybes to do and shifts to play, as well as always having ‘getting west’ on your mind to line yourself up nicely for the doldrums.

Leg 1 Volvo canaries

Sailing through the Canaries, sticking East of the Ridge HP for NE’ly winds

Leg 1 Volvo cape verde

Sailing through the Cape Verde’s, heading West here currently see’s a nicer reaching angle South

Every team in a weeks time will be looking to find the thinnest transition of the doldrums as well as line up their exit with a nice reaching angle South before executing the long slow turn around the St Helena high pressure. By the time they reach the doldrums I am sure some gaps would have appeared, with some teams defending positions, lining up directly South of your closest competitors is generally considered the safest approach for this, but some teams will be looking to take a gamble. With the prize of being that the first boat out will find the stronger winds first, and able to extend on their opponents, perhaps gambles will be taken here. It is all to play for and for sure I won’t be able to keep my eyes off of the racing!

Till next time,


Add a comment - Members log in

You can ...

Ads from henrybomby