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Martínez bounces back

Posted on 25 November 2014 by Ivan Bidzilya

[Source:Volvo Ocean Race] MAPFRE, the Spanish boat which finished last of the fleet in Leg 1, has bounced back in style to challenge for the lead in the next stage between Cape Town and Abu Dhabi.

Skipper Iker Martínez (ESP) acted decisively after MAPFRE’s disappointing result on November 7 and introduced experienced watch leader, Rob Greenhalgh (GBR), and new navigator, Jean-Luc Nélias (FRA), to the eight-man crew. It was a tough call as Martínez was forced to drop the twice-Vendée Globe winner Michel Desjoyeaux as a result, but so far, the changes have worked like a charm.By just before 1000 GMT on Tuesday, MAPFRE were just under two nautical miles (nm) (see panel) off the pace set by Leg 1 winners Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, but in a better position to sail directly to the finish than Ian Walker’s (GBR) crew.

November 23,2014. Leg 2 onboard MAPFRE. Iker Mart’nez at the navigation desk. Francisco Vignale/MAPFRE/Volvo Ocean Race

November 23,2014. Leg 2 onboard MAPFRE. Iker Mart’nez at the navigation desk. Francisco Vignale/MAPFRE/Volvo Ocean Race

Nobody in the seven-strong fleet is more determined to excel in this 5,200nm stage than Martínez, 37, who won the first three legs of the last edition in 2011-12 as skipper of Telefónica before their challenge faded for an eventual fourth place finish. “We want to get rid of the bad taste in the mouth from Leg 1,” he told “We’re determined to finish on the podium in Abu Dhabi.”

The strategy of MAPFRE has been simple: stay in the middle of the fleet as much as possible and make sure they don’t miss any breakaway moves from their rivals.

Martínez’s right-hand man, Xabi Fernandez, explained: “We spend all day and all night looking at our rivals. You want to measure the (wind) pressure in close detail, knowing that you just can’t commit any errors. “To be so close to the lead, we have sailed at 100 percent.” Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, meanwhile, have found themselves well to the west of the fleet almost by accident, when only a position report from Race Control informed them that the other six boats had tacked to the east while they ploughed on in the opposite direction.

November 23,2014. Leg 2 onboard MAPFRE. Xabi Fernandez trimming the main sail. Francisco Vignale/MAPFRE/Volvo Ocean Race

November 23,2014. Leg 2 onboard MAPFRE. Xabi Fernandez trimming the main sail. Francisco Vignale/MAPFRE/Volvo Ocean Race


Fortunately, for the crew on board ‘Azzam’, the wind pressure in their location has been higher than that of their rivals – at least for the time being – and they snatched the lead by Tuesday morning. Walker admitted: “We find ourselves a little bit out on a limb with the fleet, so I’m a little bit nervous right now.” Ahead lies a possible cyclone or tropical storm before a finish in Abu Dhabi in mid-December so it’s certainly not all plain sailing for any of  he teams from here.

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Portsmouth to host two years of spectacular America’s Cup World Series Racing

Posted on 25 November 2014 by Ivan Bidzilya

[Source: TeamOrigin] On 25 November 2014, Sir Keith Mills GBE announced that America’s Cup Racing is to return to British waters when the America’s Cup World Series (ACWS) takes place in Portsmouth 23-26 July 2015 and 21–24 July 2016.  Sir Keith has been central to the delivery of some of the UK’s greatest sporting events, most recently as Deputy Chairman of London 2012 and Chairman of ‘Invictus Games’. The ACWS Portsmouth will be managed by TEAMORIGIN Events, a company set up by Sir Keith Mills in 2007.

Speaking during this morning’s launch event at London’s OXO Tower, Sir Keith said: “I’m passionate about bringing world-class sporting events to Great Britain, and delighted that America’s Cup World Series racing will be coming to Portsmouth. This will not just be a spectacular sporting event, it will also showcase Portsmouth, the South Coast and Great Britain on a global stage, delivering economic benefit to the City and the sponsors involved. The series will attract huge crowds to watch the exhilarating racing and we plan to give the event a festival feel bringing activities and entertainment for all.

Sir Ben Ainslie and Sir Keith Mills. London. 25th November 2014.ACWS Portsmouth Communications Team

Sir Ben Ainslie and Sir Keith Mills. London. 25th November 2014.ACWS Portsmouth Communications Team

“Our plans are for more than two action packed long week-ends. We are also putting together a three year activation programme running right up until the end of the 35th America’s Cup in 2017. We look forward to delivering a world class sporting event for Great Britain.”

The ACWS is the preliminary race series of the 35th America’s Cup, consisting of eight to ten regattas taking place around the world during 2015 and 2016. All America’s Cup teams will compete in the series and their overall placement will affect the seeding and starting score they take into the America’s Cup Qualifier events in 2017.

“The America’s Cup World Series events in Portsmouth in 2015 and 2016 are an opportunity for British fans to watch world class America’s Cup teams compete and of course support Ben Ainslie Racing as they compete on home waters,” said Harvey Schiller, the Commercial Commissioner of the America’s Cup. “I know Ben joins all the competitors in their goal to bring the America’s Cup back to their home country and racing in the America’s Cup World Series is a first step towards that end.”

Ben Ainslie Racing (BAR) is the British challenger for the 35th America’s Cup, and have their home base in Portsmouth. Team Principal and four-time Olympic gold medallist, Sir Ben Ainslie said: “A key part of BAR’s plans was to bring America’s Cup racing to Great Britain and I would like to thank Sir Keith and his team for making those plans become a reality. The last ACWS was a game changer for the sport of sailing, the racing was entertaining and brought in the crowds. The new foiling AC45s are going to be faster and even more exciting than the previous generation and we promise to provide an event experience like you have never seen before – come and cheer us on!”

The City of Portsmouth has a significant role to play and the event will encompass most of the City’s existing visitor destinations including HMS Warrior and Victory, the Mary Rose Museum, the Spinnaker Tower, Gunwharf Quays and Southsea Common. Spectators will enjoy three days of racing, including practice racing on the Friday and then two races on Saturday and two races on ‘Super Sunday Final’.

ACWS Portsmouth Map. ACWS Portsmouth Communications Team

ACWS Portsmouth Map. ACWS Portsmouth Communications Team

The events will be funded by a combination of private investment, sponsorship, suppliers and media partnerships. Previous ACWS events have been commercially successful and the ambition is to grow the value of the events by offering sponsors branding and visibility, media impact, hospitality for clients and employees, and tickets for public entertainment.

Speaking at the launch, BAR Chairman Sir Charles Dunstone outlined the commercial opportunities of the ACWS in Portsmouth: “Sport is big business. The last America’s Cup saw more than 150 companies involved in significant sponsorships or supplier partnerships with the event or competing teams. The last time the ACWS came to Britain was Plymouth in 2011 and we saw 150,000 live spectators and the economic value and media impact of the event was estimated at £60m. By securing the commercial and marketing rights of these events we can offer a wider and more diverse range of opportunities to businesses and media to get involved, generate value and gain benefit from what will be an incredible sporting spectacle. ”

One of the key objectives of the organisers of ACWS Portsmouth will be to bring the action to the public with ‘free-to-view’ areas in the Race Village where spectators can enjoy the atmosphere, and watch the racing. There will also be additional opportunities to buy tickets for specific attractions, prime seating areas, exhibitions and hospitality. Further ticketing information will be released in the New Year.

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It’s Walker’s turn

Posted on 23 November 2014 by Ivan Bidzilya

[Source: Volvo Ocean Race] In the race to Abu Dhabi, the home boat was the first to gybe north yesterday night. Having suffered from a ripped A3 and a broken steering system in the past days, the Emirati crew was hoping to make the most of the remains of the Agulhas Current to finally tackle the high-pressure system sitting north of the fleet. But Ian and his guys didn’t expect the other six teams to take their time, turning a couple of hours later and isolating them in the west. Over 90 nautical miles west of Team SCA, in the most eastern position, actually.

However, as dawn broke on the fourth day of Leg 2, being in front meant the Abu Dhabi yacht was the first to be slowed by a large area of light winds blocking the fleet’s path north. At the 0640 position report, ADOR were down to fourth in the standings but only seven miles off the lead.

November 22, 2014. Leg 2 onboard Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing. A GoPro shot of the watch team sailing the boat comfortably.November 22, 2014. Leg 2 onboard Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing. A GoPro shot of the watch team sailing the boat comfortably.November 22, 2014. Leg 2 onboard Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing. A GoPro shot of the watch team sailing the boat comfortably.Matt Knighton/Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race

November 22, 2014. Leg 2 onboard Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing. A GoPro shot of the watch team sailing the boat comfortably. Matt Knighton/Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race

Skipper Ian Walker confessed to have been surprised that the rest of the fleet hadn’t turned north earlier. “Actually, we were worried that we were too far east and that the fleet had bolted north to before us,” Walker said.

Although Azzam has been the first of the seven-boat fleet to be held up by the light winds, Walker believes they should be well positioned to break through into more wind. “All the weather models suggest ‘west is best’,” he said. “Whether that turns out to be correct, only time will tell.The fact is that, to some degree, really, we are all guessing what happens next.”

One bonus for ADOR is that the lighter winds have enabled the crew to carry out a more permanent repair to their torn A3 headsail which they temporarily patched up yesterday – a relief with around 4,000 miles still to race to Abu Dhabi.

The bold move by the Abu Dhabi team was cautiously met by the rivals. Amory Ross reports from onboard Alvamedica: “After the 1am position report we were finally given the green light to go north. Will sees an opportunity to sail to the west of the high pressure and it was time to go. Unfortunately, we were maybe too patient; we were the last to make the jibe and in doing so, our timing was dictated by the fleet more than picking our ideal lane. Consequently, we’ve lost fairly big.”

November 22,2014. Leg 2 onboard Team Alvimedica. DAY 3. The fleet continues southeast away from Abu Dhabi,but the decision to turn north is tempting--were it not for a row of windless high-pressure in the way. Amory Ross/Team Alvimedica/Volvo Ocean Race

November 22,2014. Leg 2 onboard Team Alvimedica. DAY 3. The fleet continues southeast away from Abu Dhabi,but the decision to turn north is tempting–were it not for a row of windless high-pressure in the way. Amory Ross/Team Alvimedica/Volvo Ocean Race

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GC32 Racing Tour 2015 dates and venues announced

Posted on 21 November 2014 by Ivan Bidzilya

[Source:GC32 Class] For 2015, its third season of racing, the GC32 foiling catamarans are to compete around Europe on a five event circuit known as the GC32 Racing Tour.

Representing the state-of-the-art in catamaran design, the GC32 is attracting considerable interest due to its conceptual similarity to the AC72 and AC62 foiling catamarans pioneered in the America’s Cup. However as the GC32s are smaller one designs with soft sail rigs, they provide both professional teams and private owners with the opportunity to experience airborne catamaran racing and all the excitement of the larger AC catamarans, but on a much more modest budget and on boats that are far easier to handle while still having the potential to achieve top speeds approaching 40 knots.

The 2015 GC32 Racing Tour schedule:

27-31 May: Austria Cup – Lake Traunsee, Austria
24–27 June: Cowes Cup – Cowes, UK
30 July–2 Aug: TBA – Germany
27-30 August: Trofeo di Roma – Rome Fiumicino, Italy
10–13 September: Marseille One Design – Marseille, France.

The season kicks off on the mountain-lined Lake Traunsee in Austria, where the boats will be based out of Gmunden at the northern end of the lake. This will be the third occasion the GC32s will have competed on the picturesque lake after a successful event this year when the line-up featured sailors from the Luna Rossa and Oracle Team USA America’s Cup campaigns.

Christian Feichtinger, CEO of the Traunsee event’s organisers PROFS Marketing, said: “We are very excited about the latest development of the class. It has proof that we took the right decision two years ago when we started with GC32 races on Lake Traunsee. The past two events were quite successful, but we can´t wait to see more boats and more action on our waters. We believe that this is the best sailing product on the market right now and we are proud of being part of it.”

After two GC32s competed in the 2014 J.P. Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race, with one claiming line honours in what was one of the lightest events on record, the GC32 Racing Tour returns to one of world’s most historic race courses – the Solent. Here, during the circuit’s UK stopover, racing will take place over three days before the grand finale in which the GC32 fleet will once again race around the Isle of Wight. While the Round the Island Race was first held in 1931, this course was also famously that of the first America’s Cup held in 1851 (when it ran in the opposite, clockwise direction).

Mike Peskett, Race PRO of the J.P. Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race commented: “The Island Sailing Club is delighted that the GC32 class will be attending the 2015 edition of the J.P. Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race and that the Club will be also running the UK leg of the GC32 Racing Tour. As organisers of such an iconic yacht race, we continually work hard to broaden its appeal to our worldwide audience, followers and race partners.”

Full details of the GC32 Racing Tour’s German stopover will be announced soon, but will be followed at the end of August by a new event being held off the beach at Fiumicino, just 8km from the centre of the Italian capital, Rome. With Italian sailing fans being enthusiastic supporters of the America’s Cup and fielding their own team, the Trofeo di Roma is certain to attract the crowds.

The GC32 Racing Tour once again will culminate at Marseille One Design, where the GC32s will participate alongside other foiling classes. Backed by the Ville de Marseille in the build-up to the French Mediterranean city becoming European Capital of Sport for 2017, racing will once again take place on the waters of the Rade Sud to the south of Marseille’s main city centre. At the end of Marseille One Design the GC32 Racing Tour champion will be decided.

In 2015 Marseille will also be the venue for an early season training regatta both for teams and race management, a ‘Pre-Event’ to be held over 16-19 April.

Didier Réault, Deputy Mayor of Marseille in charge of maritime affairs, commented: “The Marseille One Design 2014 showcased the extraordinary progress that has been made in sailing via your amazing GC32s. On behalf of the City, I am delighted that your class association has chosen to host its first gathering of the season at the Roucas Blanc Nautical Arena in April 2015. I’m also especially thrilled that you’ll once again round off your European tour in our harbour, within the context of the Marseille One Design 2015. In fact, we’re imagining that at the end of this final race in September, some of your crews might winter and train in Marseille as they wait for the warm-up sessions to kick off on our waters once again in the spring of 2016.”

The standard format for each event will be to run between six and eight races each day. However PRO David Campbell-James is being permitted some flexibility with the race schedule to include speed trials, long distance races and other formats at his discretion. As always there will be an opportunity for VIPs, journalists and corporate guests to sail on board the GC32 foiling cats during racing as a ‘sixth man’, provided conditions permit this.

GC32 Class Manager, Christian Peer concludes: “In the name of everyone involved in this Class, I would like to thank the organisers for their support and trust. The 2015 schedule is covering great sailing markets and most of our teams next year will sail once in their home waters. We thank Laurent Lenne for his support and look forward to seeing new teams coming to join us for 2015. All in all we are very happy with the current situation.”

A minimum of six to eight teams will compete in all the events with new participants already signed from across Europe and the USA in addition to GC32 founder Laurent Lenne’s SPAX Solutions team and Marwin Sailing Team of Swiss Olympic Star sailor Flavio Marazzi. Details of the new teams will be announced over the next weeks.

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Team Brunel breeze out of Cape Town

Posted on 20 November 2014 by Ivan Bidzilya

[Source: Volvo Ocean Race] Skippers of the seven boats in the Volvo Ocean Race fleet, which set out for the 6,125 nautical mile (nm) Leg 2 from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, left with warnings of possible cyclone activity and tropical storms ringing in their ears.
Race organisers took late measures to keep the 66 sailors away from the very worst of the weather on the Indian Ocean with a new exclusion zone leading to the Seychelles.

There were already zones in place to avoid icebergs in the Southern Ocean and the more unlikely menace of pirate attack further down the route on the east coast of the Indian Ocean. The latter zone was being kept secret from the public to avoid the possibility of the fleet being intercepted.

From the very start on Wednesday (1800 local/1600 UTC), the sailors were given a taste of things to come with gusts of up to 35 knots kicking up a procession of white-capped waves. It was a question of ‘don’t break your boat’ as most opted for conservative sail choices, while they wrestled to keep them under control and intact.

For the second leg start in a row, Team Brunel led the fleet out of port after wrestling the lead, first from MAPFRE (Iker Martínez/ESP), and then Team SCA (Sam Davies/GBR) who were well in the hunt.

The fleet will continue to sail in these gale-force conditions, which Team Alvimedica skipper Charlie Enright (USA) described before the start as ‘heinous’.

“I think we’re all going to have to be pretty conservative,” he told the skippers’ press conference, just over 24 hours earlier. “This could be the worst sea state these boats have ever seen.”

Favourites for the leg are Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR), who have barely made a false move since setting out from Alicante on October 11. They followed their 12-minute win over Dongfeng Race Team in Leg 1 on November 5, by securing victory on Saturday in the Cape Town in-port race. When asked if there were such a thing as ‘home advantage’ in sailing, Walker, 44, was determined to keep his crew’s feet on the ground – as well as his own.

“First we have to get there,” he smiled. “I’ll be happy just to get within range and then arrive in Abu Dhabi. There’s a fantastic welcome for everybody in store once we get there, that’s for sure.”

Team Vestas Wind surprised onlookers when a choir on board their support boat burst into song just prior to the start. Their message was loud and clear: ‘There’s an even more important race we must win – to save the environment’.

Leg 2 is expected to take between 22 to 28 days to complete, depending on conditions. The boats will remain in Abu Dhabi over Christmas and the New Year before setting sail again on January 3 for Sanya, China.

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Congressional Cup Joins Alpari World Match Racing Tour

Posted on 19 November 2014 by Ivan Bidzilya

[Source:WMRT] The Alpari World Match Racing Tour (AWMRT) today announced the addition of the Congressional Cup to the 2015 World Championship Tour schedule. The announcement follows this year’s 50th anniversary of the historic Congressional Cup event, organised by Long Beach Yacht Club, in Long Beach, California.

James Pleasance, Executive Director of AWMRT commented, “I am delighted to welcome the Congressional Cup to the Alpari Tour family. It is one of the most coveted trophies in match racing, and a fantastic addition to the World Championship, particularly as a new Tour event in the United States.”


From L-R: James Pleasance, Executive Director of AWMRT; Bill Durant, Chairman Congressional Cup; David Stotler, Commodore LBYC; John Fleishman, Vice Commodore LBYC; Cheri Busch, Sponsorship Chair Congressional Cup © PHOTO BY LBYC

The Congressional Cup has been an innovator in the game of match racing since 1965; introducing on-the-water umpiring in the early 1990s, and embracing a high level of organization with a unique volunteer force of more than 300 members of Long Beach Yacht Club – one of the premiere boating institutions in the United States since 1929.

Each spring, five days of heated competition take place directly in front of the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier on the Long Beach waterfront, providing a natural stadium atmosphere for spectators to enjoy. Since 1990 the regatta has been sailed in identical 37-foot Catalina sloops designed specifically for the event, and still used today.

The winning skipper of the Congressional Cup is awarded the coveted ‘Crimson Blazer’ – an honour bestowed to some of the best known names in professional sailing including Ken Read, Gavin Brady, Dennis Conner, Ted Turner and Dean Barker. The 2014 anniversary event was won by defending ISAF Match Racing World Champion Taylor Canfield, from the US Virgin Islands, who is slated to return in 2015 to defend his Congressional Cup title.

Commenting on the announcement Canfield added, “As one of the most prestigious events and trophies in sailing, I am excited to see the Congressional Cup join the Alpari World Match Racing Tour. It is one of my personal favourites, and a spectacle as an event itself. With the best hospitality there is, and the driving force of the proud supportive membership, this event will add great value to the AWMRT.”

The 2015 Congressional Cup will host 12 competing teams from 13th-17th May, including eight AWMRT Card Skippers, winner of the 2014 US Grand Slam of Match Racing, two qualifying entries from the Ficker Cup, and a Long Beach Yacht Club representative.

The full 2015 Alpari World Match Racing Tour schedule will be announced before the end of the year.

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Volvo Ocean Race Leg2 Preview

Posted on 18 November 2014 by Ivan Bidzilya

[Source: B&G] First up: congratulations to Pascal Bidegorry of Dongfeng Race Team who wins the B&G Volvo Ocean Race Navigator’s Prize for Leg 1. He was voted the top performing navigator of the first leg by the best possible judging panel – his peer group, the navigators themselves. And, of course, we should also give a nod to Ian Walker and his team aboard Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing for winning both the first leg, and the Cape Town In-Port race. Nice work, boys.

The Race Track

No time for Pascal, Ian or anyone else to rest on their laurels though as Leg 2 gets underway on Wednesday afternoon. This is a tough one, it’s both long and strategically tricky, crossing from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean, from the Southern Hemisphere to the North. And it will be different to any previous race. This route to Abu Dhabi was only introduced in 2011-12, and on that occasion the boats were shipped part of the way – this time they will race every mile.

November 18, 2014. Night falls in the Cape Town Race Village the night before the start of Leg 2 from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi. Charlie Shoemaker/Volvo Ocean Race

November 18, 2014. Night falls in the Cape Town Race Village the night before the start of Leg 2 from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi. Charlie Shoemaker/Volvo Ocean Race

The course heads south out of Cape Town to go around the Cape of Good Hope, before turning to head north-east into the Indian Ocean. There are two exclusion zones on this leg, and the first one is almost immediately relevant. It is defined by a great circle line between Maputo on the east coast of South Africa, then Madagascar, Mauritius and a point at the eastern edge of Oman. The idea of this zone is to keep boats out of the pirate territory that lies off the coast of East Africa and to the south of the Arabian Peninsula.

So once around the Cape the fleet must head north-east rather than north, to stay out of the East Africa exclusion zone. Only when they have cleared it, can they turn due north for the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Oman and so to the finish in Abu Dhabi. The second exclusion zone will only be relevant on the run in to the line – an exclusion zone to keep them out of Iranian waters. No prizes for guessing why.

Upwind Opening

The opening section to the Cape of Good Hope is often upwind, and it doesn’t look like it will be any different this time. The start is at 16:00 (all times are UTC) and the forecast has a strong south-southeasterly blowing, thanks to the interaction of a high pressure to the west of Cape Town, and a low pressure to the south. If there are any cobwebs – which I doubt after such a short stop-over – then they will get blown away pretty quickly as the boats indulge in a tack-fest to the southern tip of Africa.

November 16, 2014. Andrea Petersen Volunteer in Cape Town for the Volvo Ocean Race, had an amazing sailing experience onboard Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing invited by her idol Ian Walker. Charlie Shoemaker/Volvo Ocean Race

November 16, 2014. Andrea Petersen Volunteer in Cape Town for the Volvo Ocean Race, had an amazing sailing experience onboard Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing invited by her idol Ian Walker. Charlie Shoemaker/Volvo Ocean Race

The Cape of Counter-Intuitive Routing

Back in the day, when Leg 2 was a rip-roaring, padlock-the-halyards-to-the-cleats, last-one-to-Freo’s-a-softie sort of affair, there was only one way to go after the Cape of Good Hope – south. Go south, wait till it’s blowing dogs off chains and then turn left. This is exactly the same Southern Ocean strategy that we talked about in our Preview of Leg 1 dealing with the St Helena High.

When the race course was changed to include Asia and Leg 2 became a race to the north, rather than east, the opening section of the leg appeared to be a very different strategic problem once the boats had cleared the Cape of Good Hope. After all, you don’t want to go east now, but north-east – so surely, sailing south from Africa in search of breeze is madness?

The Whole Sorry Mess…

The reason this strategy might actually make sense is a little thing called the Agulhas Current. This starts at somewhere around 27degS and flows down the east coast of Africa, following the continental shelf, until it spills out into the south-east Atlantic. And there, this warm water current meets the cold water and the east-bound storm systems of the Southern Ocean. Most notoriously, they come together off Cape Agulhas, which overlooks the Agulhas Bank, the final projection of shallow continental shelf into deep water.

This combination of inbound storm systems and outbound current, of warm water and cold water, of big waves and shallow ground, creates one of the nastiest pieces of ocean on the planet. And if you want to go from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi on the direct route, you’ve got to go across the Agulhas Bank, and battle the current north. Whereas dipping south from the Cape of Good Hope, down into the Southern Ocean and then going east before you turn north, means dodging the whole sorry mess.

So, the strategy from the Cape is likely to be the same as it always was – head south into the Southern Ocean and try to find an east-bound low pressure system that you can hook a ride on. The forecast looks good for this strategy at the moment, with a low pressure system ready and waiting close to the Cape on Thursday – it could make for a relatively straight-forward opening to the leg. It’s the next bit that might be tricky…

November 17,2014. In the Boatyard; Dongfeng Race Team preparing for Leg 2. Ainhoa Sanchez/Volvo Ocean Race

November 17,2014. In the Boatyard; Dongfeng Race Team preparing for Leg 2. Ainhoa Sanchez/Volvo Ocean Race

Exit? What Exit?

The trick with this strategy is finding the exit – let’s say you get a ride on a low pressure system, smoke east in a blaze of spume and glory for a few hundred miles…. then what? The problem now is finding the off-ramp – transiting from the westerly storm track and dodging around the sub-tropical high that dominates the Indian Ocean to get into the trade winds.

This should sound familiar – and yes, Leg 2 is effectively the second part of Leg 1, but in reverse. The reason is that the earth’s climate features distinct bands, lying horizontally and looping the globe, running out from the Equator to the Poles in a mirror image (there is a great diagram half-way down this article). As we’ve already seen, when racing from north to south, the fleet are constantly crossing from one band of climate to another, and in this respect, Leg 2 will be no different to Leg 1 – the trick is finding the right entry and exit points for each transition.

Dodging the High. Again.

At this time of year, the Indian Ocean’s equivalent to the St Helena High should be situated a long way east, but nevertheless, if the fleet go too far that way, they will run smack into it. And that will be slow – there’s no wind in the centre of a high pressure system. So this part of the leg will be all about a smooth transition from the ride on the low pressure system into the south-east trade winds, by skirting around the western side of the High.

The band of north to north-easterly winds around the western edge of the high pressure system is usually sitting around the latitude of Madagascar, and the fleet will look to use these to power into the trade wind zone. By the time they get north of Mauritius, they should find themselves in the trade winds, blowing at a decent strength.

In theory, the next thousand miles or so, going north in the trades, will be the most straight-forward part of the leg. The random factor here is that we are entering the cyclone season for the South Indian Ocean. These storms spin-up on the edge of the Doldrums and travel south – they destroy the trade winds, and can leave the navigators with a tricky choice between too much wind and not enough. Then it will be into the Doldrums, and predominantly light air all the way north to… the finish?

Doldrum Conundrum

Unlike the Atlantic, where we saw the well established route through the Doldrums (at 30degW) come good once again for Ian Walker and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, there is no such history for this part of the world. Since the last sailboats to regularly go this way (with an eye on the clock) were square riggers, there is no encyclopaedia of racing knowledge to fall back on when the weather forecasts are all different and about as useful as an ashtray on a motor bike. So, no more homespun, common-sense rules of thumb from me for a while, either.

If that wasn’t bad enough (the weather, not the lack of homespun homilies) we should remember that it won’t just be light air in the Doldrums – there will be clouds and thunderstorms, and all the usual risks of getting caught out with lots of sail area up in a 40 knot squall. The Indian Ocean is the world’s warmest, and that means plenty of energy to drive the thunderstorms.

November 17,2014. In the Boatyard; Team Vestas Wind preparing for Leg 2. Ainhoa Sanchez/Volvo Ocean Race

November 17,2014. In the Boatyard; Team Vestas Wind preparing for Leg 2. Ainhoa Sanchez/Volvo Ocean Race

Monsoon Rains

Once the fleet clear the Doldrums, they will be heading upwind into the Arabian Sea in the north-easterly trade winds – or in this case, monsoon winds, as we are in monsoon season. This breeze ‘should’ just about take them all the way to the home straight, into the Gulf of Oman. Expect the monsoon winds to weaken as they go north though, and we will probably see a light area transition zone as we close on the Gulf.

Once they get into the Gulf, race meteorologist Gonzalo Infante says that the predominant local wind blows from the northwest and is called Shamal. And that means a long upwind section into the Strait of Hormuz, before a left turn and a final reaching leg to Abu Dhabi.
And there you have it – lots of contrast and a wide range of conditions face the crews over the next 3-4 weeks. Just like Leg 1, it’s going to need stamina, patience, and will suit the all-rounders. I’ll be back here next Tuesday to see how the first week went.

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