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Damian Foxall to join Dongfeng

Posted on 05 March 2015 by Reporter

[Source: Volvo Ocean Race] Damian Foxall (IRL), one of the biggest names in offshore sailing, is joining Dongfeng Race Team for the forthcoming treacherous Leg 5. Caudrelier and Foxall were on the Groupama boat that won the 2011-12 edition. The Irishman was the natural choice when Dongfeng’s skipper looked for an experienced sailor to bolster his line-up for the 6,776 nm stage from Auckland to Itajaí, Brazil, through the Southern Ocean and round Cape Horn.

Foxall, who has competed in four previous Volvo Ocean Races, arrived in Auckland fresh from victory in the EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour (SATT), sailing with the renowned French sailor Sidney Gavignet. He said on Thursday that he was thrilled to link up again with Caudrelier, who has guided his China-backed team to joint top of the current race standings. “I am delighted to be back ‘in the saddle’. This will be the 10th round-the-world event that I will be involved in and my eighth rounding of Cape Horn,” he said. “It is a privilege to have the opportunity to join Charles and the boys onboard Dongfeng who have been doing such an exemplary job. My role is to fit in as seamlessly as possible and to bring the benefit of a fresh person to the team. It is hard to overstate the difficulty of the Volvo Ocean Race for the sailors and teams, the longest sporting event in any sport, and it is exactly this, the duration, that makes it so hard. A planned rotation of the crew at key times has become a crucial part of any successful team’s strategy.”

Caudrelier agrees. “This leg is going to be a tough, freezing cold, with big seas and strong winds – only the toughest sailors can endure it,” he said.

Foxall could not be joining the race at a more challenging time. The first three boats finished the 5,264nm Leg 4 within just over eight minutes of each other after 20 days at sea with MAPFRE (Xabi Fernández/ESP) becoming the fourth team to win a leg.

Foxall will replace Thomas Rouxel (FRA) on this leg, continuing the crew rotation programme set by Caudrelier to ensure his eight-man crew are fighting fit and bringing fresh energy into the team.

Navigator Pascal Bidégorry is back and will undoubtedly find the Southern Ocean leg less painful than being rested on land as he was for Leg 4. Caudrelier has yet to confirm which of his Chinese sailors will sail in the forthcoming stage. The crew will be announced next week for the leg, which sets off on Sunday, March 15.

Damian Foxall’s four Volvo Ocean Race appearances
2001-02 (Tyco)

2005-06 (Ericsson)

2008-09 (Green Dragon)

2011-12 (Groupama sailing team)

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Iker Martinez returns to MAPFRE as skipper

Posted on 01 March 2015 by Reporter

[Source: Volvo Ocean Race] MAPFRE’s stand-in skipper Xabi Fernández, was savouring a memorable Leg 4 triumph in the Volvo Ocean Race on Sunday, but his stint in charge will come to a halt for the next stage through the Southern Ocean.

The 38-year-old Basque took over from his long-term partner and best friend, Iker Martínez, for the last two legs while the latter concentrated on his 2016 Rio Olympics preparations. Xabi, for so long the right-hand man of his illustrious partner, has clearly not been daunted by the challenge, guiding the Spanish crew to fourth in Leg 3 and then following up with a paper-thin victory on Saturday night on the 5,264-nm stage from Sanya to Auckland.

He told a press conference on Sunday morning that, despite his success, normal service on board MAPFRE would be resumed when the fleet sets sail for Itajaí on March 15 for the toughest of all nine stages, Leg 5 through the Southern Ocean. “Iker is coming back,” Xabi told reporters. “He’s flying out on the 6th (March). He’s going to be with us on the next leg, which was always the plan. I am especially looking forward to him coming back. We are already a very strong team with Jean-Luc (Nélias, the navigator) and the rest, but we’ll be stronger with Iker in again, for sure.”

So will he be back for the rest of the race now? “It depends a lot on how things are going. He has some commitments, of course. For sure, he’ll be doing the next leg and for sure he’ll be doing the cross-Atlantic leg (from Newport). But there’s a question mark for the leg from Itajaí to Newport.”

Marzo 01, 2015. Skippers Press conference after Leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race from Sanya to Auckland. Ainhoa Sanchez / Volvo Ocean Race

Marzo 01, 2015. Skippers Press conference after Leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race from Sanya to Auckland. Ainhoa Sanchez / Volvo Ocean Race

The six skippers who arrived in Auckland harbour within seven hours of each other in the small hours of Sunday morning, local time, looked remarkably fresh after snatching very little sleep before a press conference attended by the knowledgeable New Zealand sailing media.

Ian Walker, skipper of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, had every reason to look buoyant, despite being pipped into second place by four minutes 25 seconds. Their second successive runners-up spot, however, has given them the overall race lead over Dongfeng Race Team, who they beat by under four minutes. Both have eight points but Walker’s men have the advantage thanks to their superior record in the in-port race series where they lead after four races.

Walker outlined a clear, pre-race strategy in October: finish on the podium in every leg and the chances are you will end up on top come the end of the race in Gothenburg, Sweden, on June 27. So far, he has carried out that plan to perfection with, successively, first, third, second and second places, but he conceded: “The difference between the teams is getting less and less, but our strategy is consistency. However, it if it becomes a two-horse race, it could be the wrong strategy.”

Caudrelier, without wishing to slight Team Alvimedica who won the first in-port race in Alicante back in October, has identified that all crews are taking the inshore series increasingly seriously since it could well break ties by the end of the event.

For Enright, it was another leg of learnings tinged with slight disappointment that his U.S./Turkish-backed boat could not build on their third-placed podium finish in the last leg in Sanya. “Nobody goes into a leg hoping for fourth place,” he summed up succinctly. “We’ve still got work to do on our boat speed.”

Bouwe Bekking and his team on board Team Brunel are still very much in the hunt for the overall title in third place on 12 points, but the Dutchman was typically forthright in his conclusion of feelings on board the boat following their second fifth place in a row, having triumphed on Leg 2 to Abu Dhabi. “We feel gutted, not only myself, but everybody on the team,” he told reporters. “We made one mistake – and we paid for it. We had some sickness on board, but that was no excuse.”

For Team SCA, it is a familiar story of gradual, but constant improvement, despite again finishing at the end of the fleet. “Results haven’t changed, but we’re improving. We’re almost in contact with the rest of the fleet. We’re learning as we sail next to them,” she said.

She, her crew and the rest of the fleet will now enjoy some well-earned rest in New Zealand’s sailing-mad and most populous city before the action resumes on March 14 for The New Zealand Herald In-Port Race. The departure for Itajaí, a leg of some 6,776nm, begins 24 hours later on March 15. It is the longest leg of the race and, the skippers agreed, the one that could well point to the eventual destination of the trophy in the race’s 12th edition.

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Xabi delivers memorable Leg 4 win

Posted on 28 February 2015 by Reporter

[Source: Volvo Ocean Race] MAPFRE emerged victorious despite a pair of major setbacks in Leg 4 following one of the tightest-fought finishes in Volvo Ocean Race history on Saturday night. The victory gives the 2014-15 edition its fourth winner in four legs following successes for Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, Team Brunel, and Dongfeng Race Team.

All those wins in the first three stages have been hard-fought but none more so than this latest leg win for the Spanish boat, claimed at 2131 local time/0931 UTC after 5,264 nautical miles (nm) and 20 days, two hours, 31 minutes and 20 seconds of sailing from Sanya, China to Auckland.

27 February, 2015. MAPFRE crosses the line as the winners of Leg 4 from Sanya, after 20 days of sailing.AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 27:  In this handout image provided by the Volvo Ocean Race, MAPFRE crosses first the finish line during the finish of Leg 4 from Sanya to Auckland, New Zealand. The Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15 is the 12th running of this ocean marathon. Starting from Alicante in Spain on October 04, 2014, the route, spanning some 39,379 nautical miles, visits 11 ports in eleven countries (Spain, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, China, New Zealand, Brazil, United States, Portugal, France, The Netherlands and Sweden) over nine months. The Volvo Ocean Race is the world's premier ocean yacht race for professional racing crews. (Photo by Xaume Olleros/Volvo Ocean Race via Getty Images)

27 February, 2015. MAPFRE crosses the line as the winners of Leg 4 from Sanya, after 20 days of sailing. Photo by Xaume Olleros/Volvo Ocean Race via Getty Images

Stand-in skipper Xabi Fernández could not have chosen a better stage to guide his crew to victory with just four minutes 25 seconds to spare from Walker’s men, who had the consolation of becoming overall leaders thanks to a better in-port race series record than Dongfeng Race Team. “We’re super happy to be here, and of course, it was a very tough leg,” said Xabi. “We had a very hard last day especially, but we’re very happy to be here. We have improved a lot over the last two legs. We have a very good team and I hope we can now show to the world what we can do and keep doing it like this.”

Auckland is known as the ‘City of Sails’ and the locals came out in their tens of thousands both on and off the water, fresh from cheering their cricket team to victory over Australia in the World Cup earlier in the day. For so much of a leg which started in Sanya on February 8, MAPFRE had looked the most unlikely of winners. They lost full communications for three days when a problem emerged with their antennae, which prevented them from receiving full weather data to help them plot the optimum course.

This, with the help of the Race HQ technology staff plus partners Cobham, was eventually fixed, but they also suffered a major injury problem on board when under-30 crew member Guillermo ‘Wily’ Altadill (ESP) badly hurt his hand.

It was put in a splint and Altadill, 22, will see a doctor on Sunday to discover if he has broken it. “I’m going to the doctors in the morning – after the party,” he said, the pain dulled by the euphoria of victory.

February 28,2015. Leg 4 Arrivals in Auckland; Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing. Ainhoa Sanchez / Volvo Ocean Race

February 28,2015. Leg 4 Arrivals in Auckland; Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing. Ainhoa Sanchez / Volvo Ocean Race

Walker, meanwhile, will be satisfied with his second runners-up spot in a row, and a fourth podium place. His crew skirmished with MAPFRE all day on Saturday, but could not quite overhaul the Spanish crew despite reducing the deficit to within 1nm at times.

Equally, they narrowly staved off third-placed Dongfeng Race Team by less than four minutes. Team Alvimedica claimed fourth, just under 1hr 20mins behind Dongfeng, with Team Brunel and Team SCA bringing up the rear in ever lighter winds.

27 February, 2015. Team Brunel arrives to Auckland in fifth position of Leg 4, after 20 days of sailing.  Xaume Olleros / Volvo Ocean Race

27 February, 2015. Team Brunel arrives to Auckland in fifth position of Leg 4, after 20 days of sailing. Xaume Olleros / Volvo Ocean Race

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AZZAM has a knife-edge lead as windless Auckland looms

Posted on 27 February 2015 by Reporter

[Source: Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing] With fewer than 200 miles to go to the Auckland finish line, our boys are clinging on to the Leg 4 lead after surviving a chaotic period of rainclouds and unpredictable gusty breezes on the approach to New Zealand.

After more than 5,000 miles of racing, Leg 4 is balanced on an absolute knife-edge. MAPFRE and Dongfeng are less than five miles behind and are sailing neck-and-neck in second and third place respectively. Light winds are forecast along the New Zealand coast this evening, meaning a long, slow night on the water for the weary crews who will have to guard against the ever-present threat of becoming totally becalmed.

“We are 70 miles from the New Zealand coastline now and in a few hours time there is going to be very little wind – meaning anything could happen,” said skipper Ian Walker. “I wouldn’t be surprised to find the whole fleet bobbing next to each other at some stage. We are trying to get everyone rested before what will be a very intense last 36 hours.”

Leg 4 has been tight from the very start, with any tactical or boat-handling mistake quickly and cruelly punished in the next release of the fleet position report. That’s the way it’s been for the six-boat fleet for 18 days since leaving China and now the final run in to New Zealand is promising no respite for the weary crews.

For the last two days ADOR had been patiently stalking its key rival, Dongfeng – impassively waiting and watching for the slightest sign of weakness or misfortune that could hand over the lead.

After endless hours of narrowing and closing the gap on the Chinese yacht, on 26th Feb, the ADOR crew got their chance when a nasty cloud formation shut down the breeze for Dongfeng and allowed Azzam to slip past into first place. “The wind has been all over the place and we have been changing sails like lunatics,” said ADOR skipper Ian Walker. “Finally we seem to have the right sail up and somehow we seem to have come out in the lead.”

Latest estimates predict the first finisher will cross the line in Auckland around midnight local time on Saturday, February 28.

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Emirates Team NZ prepares for challenges ahead

Posted on 26 February 2015 by Reporter

[Source: Emirates Team New Zealand] Emirates Team New Zealand announced today that the Halsey Street, Auckland, base will be fully operational from Monday, March 2. Work will start immediately on modifying an AC45 catamaran to foil. The team also announced it had completed the restructuring process that came out of the team-wide review after San Francisco and 50 people have signed on and will be working full time from Monday.

With the first America’s Cup World Series regatta scheduled to take place at Cagliari, Italy in June, pressure is on the team to start the modifications.

Wing trimmer in 2013 Glenn Ashby has been appointed Sailing Director and he and Peter Burling will take on helming duties. Ashby is a multiple world and Australian champion in three multihull classes and Burling is current world Moth and, with Blair Tuke, 49er champion.

Dean Barker was involved in the review and restructuring process and Emirates Team New Zealand wants to retain his services as Performance Manager and Sailing Coach with a place on the executive committee. In the review of Emirates Team New Zealand, the team clearly identified the need for such a role. It is a crucial position for the team and we have been discussing this as a possible option for Dean since last November.

Emirates Team New Zealand recognises that Dean has significant experience and can make a valuable contribution. The role we have offered him would enable the team to capitalise on his skills. Emirates Team New Zealand has now made a formal offer to Dean which he is still considering.

Until the review process was completed it would have been unfair to all involved, and therefore inappropriate, for Emirates Team New Zealand to comment on the various reports in the media over the last week. The review process is now complete.

It should be noted that the announcement of Bermuda as the venue for the next America’s Cup series had a serious impact on the team’s finances and sponsorship funding, reducing the budget by some $20 million. This meant the team has had to reduce its remuneration budget and each team member has, as a result, taken a significant pay cut.

Additionally several million dollars has been axed from the operations budget leading to the scrapping of one of the foiling AC45s that the team had planned and, consequently, the elimination of one of the planned helmsman positions.

CEO Grant Dalton said: “As mentioned, the team has just activated its next stage of preparations and on Monday 50 staff begin the role of planning and construction for the upcoming race series. We’re hoping to retain Dean’s 20 years of America’s Cup experience in Emirates Team New Zealand but we also acknowledge it is time for new blood to be given the chance at the helm of the country’s challenger.”

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The Hunter vs the Hunted

Posted on 25 February 2015 by Reporter

[Source: Dongfeng Race Team] Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and Dongfeng Race Team are locked into such an intense battle approaching Auckland that even the Volvo Ocean Race tracker is showing them as one boat.

There is still 800 miles to go and that is a long way in ocean racing. But as one can see from Charles’ blog below, whatever happens the team a skipper that is very proud of his team for coming back from what looked like a desperate last place last week.

February 23, 2015. Leg 4 to Auckland onboard Dongfeng Race Team. Day 15. We were this close at sunrise then Azzam got a gust of wind and slammed us. Sam Greenfield / Dongfeng Race Team / Volvo Ocean Race

February 23, 2015. We were this close at sunrise then Azzam got a gust of wind and slammed us. Sam Greenfield / Dongfeng Race Team / Volvo Ocean Race

“Three days of racing and two obstacles ahead of us. This is what separates us from a dream win in Auckland. Since last night we took the lead again, and with the pressure of being in front. To be in the lead after all the hard knocks we’ve taken on this leg is without doubt one of my, and the team’s, proudest moments since the start of this race.

We’ve had really hard moments, phases of total exhaustion, and moments of real frustration and anger but onboard there is always someone ready to re-motivate the others, someone with a positive outlook. I am so lucky to be surrounded by a magic team. Erwan who has joined us just for this one leg has delivered everything I have asked of him to make up for the absence of Pascal. Fresh and really motivated, he has brought us much more than just his talent – energy that we were perhaps missing after 4 tough legs.

February 21, 2015. Leg 4 to Auckland onboard Dongfeng Race Team. Day 13. Eric Peron on the bow. Sam Greenfield / Dongfeng Race Team / Volvo Ocean Race

February 21, 2015. Day 13. Eric Peron on the bow. Sam Greenfield / Dongfeng Race Team / Volvo Ocean Race

At the start of this race I was really feeling the pressure. The crew selection is the key to success on this race. You don’t need the best sailors, you need the best team – it’s not the same thing. The race is still very long, this leg also, everything can still happen, but those that know me well know that I am never satisfied. However, exceptionally, I can say that I am very happy with the choices I’ve made, and if I had to choose again, I would change nothing.

As a team we are managing to be competitive whilst fully respecting our commitment to train, develop and sail alongside our Chinese sailors.

Looking forward at the next few days, the two main obstacles are the crossing of an old weather front in 24 hours time, and the finish which looks light – not sure yet whether its upwind or downwind, it is not clear. It could be a total restart, but I am really hoping if it is, that it’s between the current top 3. The other boats are now quite a long way back, but anything could happen still.

Of course it’s always better to be leading, and I’d rather be where we are than where MAPFRE is – but MAPFRE has nothing to lose, they are very aggressive tactically. Abu Dhabi meanwhile will follow us for now and wait for an opportunity to jump on us.”

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‘So close, but still so far’

Posted on 20 February 2015 by Reporter

[Source: Volvo Ocean Race] Leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race was perfectly balanced on Thursday as the fleet sped towards Auckland with just under 54 nautical miles separating all six boats. All of them were chasing ‘the right sort of cloud’ as they approached a huge area of Doldrums in the mid-Pacific with some 2,500nm still to sail to reach New Zealand.

A cloud in the process of gathering moisture will suck away the gusts, which are powering the Volvo Ocean 65 boats forward. In contrast, one about to rain will offer extra wind pressure to vessels correctly positioned beneath it.

Spotting the most favourable clouds is a skilled job and all six navigators will be earning their wages twice over in the next few days trying to get it right.

Few are more experienced in the art than five-times Volvo Ocean Race veteran, Andrew Cape, navigator on board current Leg 4 leaders Team Brunel. The Dutch team were protecting a sliver-thin 22.1nm advantage over Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing at 1240 UTC on Thursday.

Team Alvimedica, MAPFRE, Team SCA, and Dongfeng Race Team were banked up behind them, with no more than 31.5nm separating the chasing pack.

Brunel’s skipper Bekking was counting down every mile until he reaches Auckland, according to his latest blog from the boat. “So close, but still so far. If you look on the map you’d think we’ve nearly reached New Zealand, but then you look at the mileage and know the reality is different,” he wrote. “We are getting close to the Equator and we are facing numerous big clouds in each watch, which makes it interesting from a short term strategy perspective. “We are giving the sailors on watch total freedom on how to attack a cloud formation. That’s why you can see on the tracker back home some very big changes in our course.”

Bekking described how a sudden shift of wind caught the fabric of a Code Zero sail in the spreaders on the mast, causing two huge holes. “We had to drop the entire sail without furling it on the foredeck, otherwise we could not reach the holes,” he wrote. “This all went remarkably easily, but the foredeck is covered in 300 square metres of sail, and now, during first daylight, Laurent and Johnny (Gerd-Jan Poortman) are on the repair job.”

Meanwhile, Will Oxley, navigator on third-placed Team Alvimedica, was busy trying to read the elusive clouds. “For the first nine days, we raced in very close company with Azzam, Dongfeng and MAPFRE,” he said. “Then, when we reached the area of massive clouds, suddenly the fleet scattered as we found ourselves taking different options in the squalls.

“By design, we found ourselves south and west of our immediate competitors. This means we are closer to the finish line, but it remains to be seen whether this is a strong position we can defend. One bad cloud and those behind could be past us again.”

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Class C: on the road to Geneva

Posted on 19 February 2015 by Reporter

[Source: Groupama sailing team] This September, Groupama C will defend her Little America’s Cup title, secured in Falmouth back in September 2013, just as the Americans on Oracle were putting the finishing touches to a fantastic comeback to snatch the oldest sporting trophy to the detriment of the New Zealanders. Passionate about sailing and about flying boats, Groupama sailing team is preparing for this clash with precision and determination.

In September 2013, a number of key figures from the teams involved in the America’s Cup made the trip to Falmouth to gauge the state of play with regards to the development of the C-Class, a flying catamaran that has boasted a fixed wing since the sixties. A genuine laboratory both aerodynamically and hydrodynamically, this class had been the prerogative of the Anglo-Saxons since the start. That is until Franck Cammas and his Groupama team decided to take an interest so as to develop their expertise on the subject.

Up against the French team, the Swiss contingent headed by Jérémie Lagarrigue on Hydros wasn’t among the favourites during a final that saw the top two boats from the fleet races pitted against each other. Despite having two identical boats designed by naval architect Marc Lombard and numerous months of fine-tuning, the Swiss crew of Besson and Lagarrigue got beaten by the Cammas – Viat pairing aboard the faster, more stable Groupama C, that really excelled to windward.

Boosted by this first master stroke, the Groupama skipper was duty bound to grant a revenge match to the Swiss team, who will host the 27th edition of the event which now goes by the name of The Little Cup and will be held in Geneva from 12 to 19 September 2015.

In order to defend their trophy in the best possible conditions, Groupama sailing team and its design office have been putting in the hours: “We’ve identified two main points of evolution: the ergonomics and the aerodynamics of the trampoline and also the appendages, namely the foils and the rudders,” explains Louis Viat, Franck Cammas’ crew and also team manager since Stéphane Guilbaud’s departure.

Dividing his time on the water with either Franck or Julien Villion at the helm off the team’s Lorient base, Louis is well placed to judge how things are progressing: “The work on the trampoline was aimed at simplifying manoeuvring so as to exploit the full potential of the boat. We’ve also streamlined the systems and made some aerodynamic gains,” adds Louis.

Another area of development is the appendages: “We’ve kept the port foil from 2013 and we’ve designed a new starboard foil in-house. We’re happy with how it feels, but that’s not enough for us. Groupama C is brimming with sensors, which should enable us to develop a significant analysis procedure from the data collected. We’re sailing in 2-minute phases, modifying one element each time. Unfortunately, the weather hasn’t been in our favour, serving up conditions that are often too boisterous for this type of machine, continues the team manager, and we’re lacking perspective too. We’ve also designed two new foiling rudders, but I can’t tell you any more about this particular subject. It’s top secret”.

This secret is something the eight people that make up the Lorient-based team will be taking care not to disclose, given that this Little America’s Cup is one of Franck Cammas’ primary objectives with a view to the America’s Cup. As such the programme for sailing, collecting and analysing data is set to continue for the next two months, before the 2015 race programme gets the upper hand.

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