Volvo Ocean Race. In-Port Race & Leg 2 Preview

Brunel just pips MAPFRE on the finish line in the Lisbon In-Port Race.
pic by Ainhoa Sanchez/Volvo Ocean Race

Team Brunel won the second In-Port Race in the Volvo Ocean Race. The team sailed almost the entirety of the race in first place and took the victory after a fierce battle with Mapfre on the last beat to the finish.

Conditions were challenging, to say the least, with squalls bringing rain and gusty, shifting winds. Not only that, but the confines of the mouth of the Tagus River meant a short leg length, with four laps of the race course – plenty of manoeuvres and boat handling for the teams.

Skipper Bouwe Bekking was very content after the race. Bekking: “We had a good day today. Just like yesterday in the Pro-am Race and Wednesday during the practice race we were happy with the start. It was a very hectic race with wind shifts and a course that was changed during the race. We’re super happy with the result. As a team we did a lot better than we did in Alicante.”

“Like I said prior to the race; when you make the fewest mistakes, you have a good chance of winning. That’s what we showed today. It was tactically aggressive, but conservative at mark roundings. It’s great we took first place. We worked hard today, since the last In-Port Race in Alicante we made big gains.”

Peter Burling: “We’re happy. Happy to get the win. It was a pretty tough race with some big rain and massive shifts to the left and the right. But we tried to keep it as simple as possible and take it easy. And there came out the win. Pretty promising but we will keep pushing it forward to the leg now.”

“I think we did well, we’ve made huge steps as a team,” Bekking said following the race. “I mean it’s always nice to win but I think we sailed pretty nicely today. There was a huge wind shift at the end and that always makes the decisions tricky but I think we made the right calls. We sailed very conservative – as you will have seen we kept our big sail up, kept it simple and that worked very well for us today.”

“It was intense. We knew it was going to be difficult today with the squalls,” said Xabi Fernández, the skipper of MAPFRE, who retain the lead of the In-Port Series after two races. “We did a good start, but at the upwind mark, we were very slow, and trailed. But we came back, step by step and on the last lap we were in the right place for the shift. In the end, we finished second and we are happy with that.”

Mirpuri Foundation In-Port Race Lisbon – Results (Provisional)
1 Team Brunel
2 MAPFRE
3 Dongfeng Race Team
4 team AkzoNobel
5 Vestas 11th Hour Racing
6 Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag
7 Turn the Tide on Plastic
3 November 2017

‘Turn the Tide on Plastic’ sailor Liz Wardley had a lucky escape when her leg got caught in a rope while racing, which resulted in her being dragged at great speed across the boat.

She was quickly rescued by her teammate Henry Bomby and Onboard Reporter Sam Greenfield, but was left badly bruised.

“The conditions of today’s race were challenging, we were sailing at about 14 knots when Liz caught her leg around one lap of the sheet, the guard wire and another line that goes over – basically it was caught between three things. The whole thing happened very quickly, she shouted and I quickly ran forward not knowing what was wrong but soon guessed that it was a bad situation. Liz’s leg is pretty bruised – there was enough load to do some damage. We had to get her leg out of the guard wire and take the loop off. I’m just glad she’s okay.”

On board Dongfeng.

Dongfeng Takes on the Atlantic
“It’s going to be interesting, so I’m excited. For me, this is the best leg of the race” said Charles Caudrelier.

At last the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18 is getting down to business. After the training build-up, the official Prologue and the coastal racing of Leg 1, the fleet is about to test its mettle during three weeks in the Atlantic and Dongfeng Race Team is raring to go.

At a nominal 7,000 nautical miles, Leg 2 from Lisbon to Cape Town, is the second longest of the entire race and undoubtedly one of the toughest and most difficult in terms of strategy and weather.

Charles Caudrelier, the skipper of Dongfeng Race Team sponsored by Dongfeng Motor Corporation, loves this marathon stage that takes the fleet south across the Azores High and the St Helena High and into the northern fringes of the Southern Ocean.

“I’m really excited about this one,” he said at the Dongfeng pavilion in the Volvo Ocean Race village in Lisbon as the team completed its final preparations. “This is one of my favourites. You set sail with trade winds, then come the Doldrums. It’s always interesting north of the Equator, and in the south Atlantic too.”

This time navigators have a free rein without the usual waypoint on the course at the Brazilian island of Fernando de Noronha. That means total freedom to choose your route to Cape Town with the attendant risks of being dropped by the peloton but also the opportunity to steal a march on your rivals.

Caudrelier knows that the final stages of this leg – often thought of as being dominated by light winds – can be punishing on boats and crew. “I remember in the past finishing this leg by sailing north, upwind, which is very difficult, because you can really damage the boat. But that opens up the game. It’s going to be interesting, so I’m excited. For me, this is the best leg of the race.”

After a challenging first leg from Alicante to Lisbon which saw Dongfeng Race Team fight hard to recover from early setbacks to finish third, Caudrelier knows he has two strong opponents in Vestas 11th Hour Racing skippered by Charlie Enright which won the opener, and the Spanish team on MAPFRE, skippered by Xabi Fernandez, which finished second.

“Of course we are all keeping an eye on our rivals,” he said. “I always knew that MAPFRE and Vestas would be strong teams and they just showed it. I think they’ve got a good way to sail. What you can see is that they are proactive, they make their own choices which is good and it’s what we have to remember from Leg 1. We don’t have a complex about them; we can sail fast, we have to do what we want and be a leader.”

Marcel van Triest, the Dongfeng Race Team meteorologist, says the absence of the waypoint at Fernando de Noronha could tempt some navigators to try to cut the corner to Cape Town via a more easterly route than is typical for the Volvo Ocean Race. But that option is full of risk.

“This time around there is an option to go further east,” he said. “But further east means the Doldrums are harder to get through. However if you do manage to get through them then, once you get out, you have a much nicer angle in the southeasterly trade winds. Any boat to leeward of you (further west) will be in a disadvantageous position relative to yourself.”

Like Caudrelier, Dongfeng Race Team watch captain Daryl Wislang is keen to get into the Atlantic and put the red and white Chinese-sponsored Volvo Ocean 65 through her paces over more than three weeks of continuous racing.

“Up until now we’ve been doing a lot of coastal sailing so we’re looking forward to getting out into the open ocean and seeing what we’ve got,” said the 36-year-old New Zealander who won the last race as part of the crew on Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.

“Historically this leg has been the first stage of the race when you hit the ocean running so to speak with a 25-day test. Obviously this time we’ve had a couple of warm-ups with the Prologue and the shorter Leg 1, so this is going to be a nice way to get moving and get the race really underway in the ocean.”

Wislang says the challenge of racing full-bore for so many consecutive days is not an issue. “It doesn’t matter if it’s three days, a week or three weeks because you get into a rhythm on board and after a while you don’t know what day it is – it’s just about the next four hours – either on-watch or off,” he said.

Akzo Nobel.

Crew Changes for AkzoNobel
Team AkzoNobel will field a full-strength nine-strong crew for the second leg of the Volvo Ocean Race to Cape Town. This leg sees the return of British navigator Jules Salter and the introduction of two new crew members: serial high-performance dinghy world champion and five-time Volvo Ocean Race competitor Chris Nicholson from Australia and Dutch double-Olympian and two-time America’s Cup winner Peter van Niekerk.

“It is great to have Jules back and to be able to announce two more great sailors in Chris and Peter,” commented skipper Simeon Tienpont (NED).

Chris Nicholson

Nicholson (48), who will sail as watch captain with team AkzoNobel, represented Australia in the super-fast 49er skiff class at the Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004 Olympic Games and won four consecutive world championships in the highly competitive class between 1997 and 2000.

He has raced the Volvo Ocean Race five times previously: in 2001-02 aboard Amer Sports 1 (3rd place); in 2005-06 on the Spanish boat movistar (6th); in 2008-09 on Puma Ocean Racing (2nd); in 2011-12 as skipper of the Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand campaign (2nd); and in the 2014-15 edition as skipper of Team Vestas Wind (7th).

“Chris and I are great friends and in the last race when he was skipper of Team Vestas Wind, he asked me to step on board at short notice,” said Tienpont. “Now it is me doing the asking and I’m glad that he has jumped at the chance to join us.

“He really needs no introduction as his pedigree in the Volvo Ocean Race is so well known. I’m confident that he will be able to help us push us along the performance curve to where we need to be and I’m really looking forward to sailing with him again.”

Dutchman van Niekerk (45) won the 31st and 32nd America’s Cups with Swiss syndicate Alinghi and has competed twice before in the Volvo Ocean Race: first in 1997-98 – when the race was known as the Whitbread Race – with Brunel Sunergy (8th place); and 10 years later in 2008-09 with Delta Lloyd (7th).

He finished fourth in the Soling class at the Sydney 2000 Olympics with helmsman Roy Heiner and fellow crewman Dirk de Ridder, and 14th in the Star class at the Athens 2004 Games, crewing for Mark Neeleman.

In the summer of 2016 van Niekerk was part of the crew of the American 100-foot ocean-racer Comanche that smashed the monohull transatlantic record time for a passage from the US to England.

“Peter is an incredible all-round sailor and I’m really pleased he is joining us,” Tienpont said. “He was one of the youngest Dutch sailors ever to do the Volvo Ocean Race and now he is always in demand as an ocean racer.

“His skills as a helmsman and sail trimmer will help us a lot and we are all very pleased to welcome him on board for this Volvo Ocean Race.”

B&G Leg 2 Preview by Libby Greenhalgh
With only 7 days to review their leg, to rest for the next leg and for some teams to solve boat speed problems, the race is really on now.

The short, gentle sprint from Alicante to Lisbon may have eased some teams into it or for others given a false sense of what it is like. Now the legs are long, the sailing relentless and the wet, cold Southern Ocean beckons. If the rest didn’t seem like long enough this time, it is about to be a whole lot harder. It won’t be until Newport Rhode Island that the teams will feel like they can catch their breath as the legs get shorter from there.

The Route
Lisbon to Cape Town hooks into the trade winds, crosses the doldrums and then heads to the first taste of the Southern Ocean, before arriving at the iconic Table Mountain.

This edition there has been a subtle change in the course. Not just that the leg is starting in Lisbon but that the teams no longer have to leave Fernando de Noronha to port and can go straight to Cape Town. This in theory opens up the potential routes to the finish significantly and could see some more ‘out of the box’ thinking with a more easterly route a possibility.

Lisbon to Capetown

Some of the routes and obstacles on the way to Cape Town.

‘Could’ is the key word here, as there are a number of reasons why even without rounding Fernando de Noronha, teams will still be heading that way rather than cutting the corner.

The classic route (shown above in yellow) covers over 1500nm more, in distance, than what is drawn on as the shorter, more easterly route (shown in white). However, you can also see from this simple schematic some of the large scale weather features that determine the route.

The classic route sets you up in the southern hemisphere with a lot more miles to do, but those miles are all offwind either at your fastest angle or just going fast offwind riding a low pressure system in the southern Atlantic towards the finish. When you can average the same or a little more than wind speed for your boat speed you soon start munching up the miles.

Meanwhile the ‘cut the corner’ route will be plodding its way upwind from the Doldrums making for pretty poor VMG. Of the 50 plus routes I calculated with historical data, only 3 routes had the inside corner just ahead or within shouting distance of the classic westerly curve. So you can’t rule it out and I would love to see it but you would be a brave (or foolish) team who takes that on. No one likes going upwind, least of all for 2000+ nm!

Negotiating the Weather – Azores High
Typically the Azores high will be sitting off the coast of Portugal, providing a downwind charge towards the equator and setting up a decent NE wind – known as the trade winds. This will allow the boats to charge quickly down towards the Doldrums.

Some acceleration zones can be found around the Canary Islands and the coast of Africa and also around the Cape Verde Islands. Choosing the route through these islands can often be tricky but also quite profitable.

The Doldrums
From the schematic earlier you can see a dotted red triangle which indicates crudely where the Doldrums sit. Known also as the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), this area is an uneven band of low pressure, creating deeply unstable conditions in a very slack airflow and therefore large shower clouds that move very slowly. You can see from the schematic that their effect lessens the further west you go, a strategy that will be in every navigators head.

Typically, getting west has always been a key goal on this leg in order to reduce the distance you have to traverse in the doldrums. A metre can mean a mile in the tricky cloud driven conditions. With this leg starting almost a month later than the previous year the opportunity to traverse the Doldrums further east than the usual 26-27deg W becomes more of an option and this is where we will start to see differences in the fleet setup as they take on cloud dodging. Regularly monitoring the cloud activity in the Doldrums and trying to identify any consistency in width of the zone will help teams determine their approach.

Then it will be Radar at the ready to spot the clouds that will make or break them.

St Helena High
Once King Neptune has gone and the newbies have been initiated across the equator and out of the Doldrums the teams face a second high pressure system known as the St Helena High. This dominates the South Atlantic and the teams will hold to the west of it as they try to dig south to connect with the fast moving low pressure systems to whip them along to Cape Town.

Ice Gates and More
What most people will be talking about before they leave dock will be the Southern Ocean. The’ old saltys’ will be reminiscing about some of their best sailing and skirting over how cold it can be. The newbies will be eager, excited and no doubt nervous.

The sole goal here is to find a big low pressure and ride it to Cape Town. Dropping off a system or behind a front will be the end of your race. So how far you dig south when you just want to go west and head to the finish is sometimes a difficult call and tracker information at this time can be deceptive as to who is in the lead.

The boats will be limited by an ice gate that stops them going any further south than 59 degrees, but we will likely see the teams skirting along this invisible boundary and we will look at this further as the Leg progresses.

That is hopefully a little food for thought as to what the teams are researching and thinking about in terms of longer term strategy. Tune back in on Sunday to get the initial weather outlook for the start of the race. Early signs already show that it’s not normally like this, with an unstable shallow low pressure holding the Azores high further west than normal.