VOR Leg 1, Getting South, and West..

VOR Leg 1, Getting South, and West..

Wednesday October 15 2014 Author: henrybomby Location: United Kingdom

So the start of the mighty Volvo Ocean Race is well and truly under way now and I have to admit I have been a bit of an addict since the start, watching, reading and listening to every bit of media that comes off the boats! Some of the content is just fantastic and it makes interesting viewing too as there is a lot we can learn from the pictures and videos sent off the boats about how the sailors are sailing the boats. This photo here for example shows how much emphasis Dongfeng are putting on stacking their gear. Coiled ropes on deck, and piling up the stack twice the height of the guard wire. Losing a sail over the side in the practice 'Leg 0' is clearly not phasing them as they push the boat as hard as they can now that the race is on proper.

Image 1
Stacking hard in the flat water with the stack twice the height of the guard wire

There has also been lots of talk about the watch systems being run on board, and how the role of skippers and navigators will fit in. From this screenshot from on board Mapfre you can see Nicolas Lunven, navigator on board Mapfre, getting stuck in on the bow in a sail change. In years gone by I am certain some navigators barely ventured on deck, let alone the bow! This is a sign of how the smaller crew numbers are forcing the sailors to be more flexible in their roles.

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Nicolas Lunven, Navigator onboard Mapfre getting stuck into a sail change on the bow

So looking back at the race so far the big move in the Mediterranean was all about SCA. Breaking away from the pack and going with what proved to be the right option, impressive stuff. The most interesting thing for me though with this was how the other teams reacted to this move, and it reminds me a lot of the way you sail in the Figaro. This race is long, and while other teams may have favoured the Northern approach, they stuck with the pack. Dongfeng, filled with sailors who cut their teeth in the Figaro for example, Charles, Pascal, Eric, Thomas, started heading North initially with SCA, most likely wishing the fleet would follow with them. When it turned out they weren't, they cut back to go with the pack, not wanting to give away too much leverage to so many boats so early on in the game.

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Fleet at 0730UT 15th October 2014

After exiting Gibraltar the fleet headed West, crossed a front and then tacked, turning their bows South towards warmer climes. The whole fleet besides Vestas are still within 10nm of each other and are currently VMG running, with British Skipper Ian Walker of Abu Dhabi currently doing the most consistent job holding a 1.7nm lead over Dongfeng.

The next 1000 or more miles are going to be all about VMG downwind sailing. There is a high pressure to navigate and at the same time the Canaries Islands too. Navigating the HP will be interesting, ideally you would pass best by sailing into the center of it, taking the right shift and then gybing away, careful not to get caught out by the light winds in the center. Example here seen in the screenshot below.

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Navigating passed a High Pressure system

In order to nail this shift, overnight last night we saw the boats gybing down the Moroccan coast to position themselves for their final approach into the high. Approach the high to early and you will not get the shift, and be sailing into lighter winds, too late and the boats inside you will get to the shift first and make gains as they gybe back at you. Remember too that the center of the HP is always moving, so its a tricky decision to make. The navigators will be pouring over every piece of information they can to make their best educated guesses. Small gains and losses will be made here by the team that does this best.

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The routing of lead boat Abu Dhabi over the next 5 days as they head south to Fenando de Noronha

After dealing with the HP the boats will then be sailing downwind in predominantly Northerly winds, meaning they will be going back to basics, gybing on the shifts, as well as staying in the best pressure. At this time, the navigators will also start looking at the best times to get in some Westing where possible, in order to get into the more Easterly trade winds which is a better angle for getting South and into the Doldrums. At the moment I have them sailing through the Cape Verde Islands in order to do this Westing, which would give them an acceleration of the wind through the islands too, and some nice footage for us too!

So keep an eye on the boats today as they slide to the Eastern side of the HP and then also as they race downwind for a few days. Who is the fastest downwind? Mapfre are reportedly 150kg lighter on personal kit for this Leg than all the other teams, will this make a difference here? Small gains over the next few days could turn into bigger gains later on as the first boat into the stronger trade winds to the South West will inevitably increase their lead further. No let up for the crews yet then it seems!

And no let up for me either, this week I am training with Nick Cherry. And today we are doing a little offshore race of our own from Torquay, round Eddystone lighthouse and back to Dartmouth. About 12 hours in total, expected into Dartmouth around 0400 tomorrow morning.


dartmouth training
Torquay, Eddystone lighthouse, Dartmouth.

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