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‘Tough, difficult and dangerous’

Posted on 15 May 2015 by Reporter

[Source: Volvo Ocean Race] The six Volvo Ocean Race skippers facing their second and final Atlantic crossing spoke on Thursday of how dangerous and challenging Leg 7 to Lisbon is likely to be. The sailors rarely voice their fears, but Monday (May 18) is the ninth anniversary of the tragic day when Dutch sailor Hans Horrevoets lost his life in the 2005-06 edition of the race. He was swept overboard on the same Atlantic leg.
The 2,800-nautical mile (nm) leg, from Newport, Rhode Island, is considerably shorter than the six legs that have preceded it, but all the skippers underlined the perils of the North Atlantic stage.

Bouwe Bekking (NED), of Team Brunel, summed up the threats to a packed press conference in Newport ahead of Sunday’s departure to the Portuguese capital. “If you just look at history in this next leg, lots of rigs have been broken, a boat has sunk, a person has lost his life and we know we’re going to Europe so people will push so hard on this leg,” he said.

Bekking knows better than most. His movistar boat sank in the equivalent leg during the 2005-06 race and his crew were rescued by Horrevoets’ team-mates on board ABN AMRO TWO. He did, however, point out that the one-design Volvo Ocean 65 boats are better maintained than in the past, ‘so hopefully this time we won’t get any breakages’.
Bekking feels his third-placed boat has little chance of catching current overall leaders, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR), with a 10-point deficit.

Walker is not so swift to write them off – and certainly not second-ranked Dongfeng Race Team (Charles Caudrelier/FRA), the Chinese team, who this week welcomed well-known French sailor Sidney Gavignet in to their crew for Leg 7. “Charles and I could go out of here, bash rigs and both our masts fall down. That could happen just like a hundred other things could happen,” he said “I’m a great believer of not looking at the points overall. It sounds a cliché but I think you should take each leg as it comes.” Caudrelier and his team, not surprisingly, have by no means given up hope of preventing Walker from winning. He pointed out that a third of the points are still up for grabs with the shortest legs still to come including Leg 8 from Lisbon to Lorient, France, and then finally to Gothenburg, Sweden, via a pit-stop in The Hague next month.

Iker Martínez (ESP), the MAPFRE skipper, returns to the Spanish boat’s helm after missing Leg 6 and insisted he was happy with his team’s current position of fifth, level on 24 points with Team Alvimedica (Charlie Enright/USA). He is relishing another battle with the North Atlantic despite bitter memories from 2012 when his Telefónica campaign began to disintegrate during this stage, allowing Groupama to win the overall title.
“The leg is very risky for all of us,” he said. “It is tough, difficult and dangerous.”
For Rhode Islander Enright, skipper of Team Alvimedica, Sunday will mark the end of an exhilarating but tiring stopover during which his hand has been pumped by dozens of well wishers as the local boy made good.
Asked what was the biggest threat in the fleet to a return to the podium for the Turkish/American boat, he replied simply: “Ourselves”.

Team SCA (Sam Davies/GBR) are finally giving a breather to Briton Annie Lush as part of their rotation system. They have not been rewarded yet for the steep learning curve in offshore experience they have garnered during the race, and the shorter legs undoubtedly are their best chance to trouble their male rivals. Already, however, Davies has one eye on the legacy her crew has built as the first all-female crew in the race for 12 years. She would jump at the chance of another shot at her sport’s toughest challenge given all that Team SCA have learned.
“We need another all female crew in the next race to reap the rewards,” she told a separate team media conference.

Meanwhile, Team Vestas Wind (Chris Nicholson/AUS) are sitting out a stage for the final time since they ran into an Indian Ocean reef midway through Leg 2 back at the end of November. Nicholson reported they are right on track for a return to the fleet for Leg 8 between Lisbon and Lorient at the beginning of June.

Tom Touber, Race Chief Operating Officer, confirmed that and added that the largely rebuilt boat had been weighed on Thursday morning and was within a kilogramme or two of all the other one-design Volvo Ocean 65s. Considering that the entire vessel weighs 12,500kg (27,557 lbs) that is an incredible achievement by the Persico boatyard in Italy. The tiny discrepancy will, in any case, be corrected.

First, though, the fleet will contest the Team Vestas Wind In-Port Race Newport on Saturday (1400 local time/1900 UTC). Team Brunel hold a one-point lead over Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing with Team SCA four points further behind in third.

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The Kansai Yacht Club challenge accepted

Posted on 14 May 2015 by Reporter

[Source: America’s Cup] SoftBank Team Japan will compete for the America’s Cup after its challenge through the Kansai Yacht Club was accepted by the Golden Gate Yacht Club, represented by the defending champion, ORACLE TEAM USA.

“We are very pleased to welcome a Japanese challenge back to the America’s Cup after a 15 year absence,” said Norbert Bajurin, the Commodore of the Golden Gate Yacht Club. “All of the formalities have been completed and we can’t wait to see the team racing this summer.”

SoftBank Team Japan general manager Kazuhiko Sofuku, known as “Fuku”, says the team is already focused on preparing for the opening event of 2015, the America’s Cup World Series in Portsmouth, UK, from July 23-26.

“We have a lot to do to be on the start line with a competitive crew,” Fuku said. “My task for the next few weeks will be to assemble a team that can compete in Portsmouth and that we can then build through the 2015 season and beyond.

“I will travel to Bermuda in the middle of the month to meet with ORACLE TEAM USA and we are likely to need a few of their sailors for these first AC World Series events until we can develop and train our own crew, including the Japanese sailors.

“For that evaluation and training, we are looking at options to test our homegrown sailors on multihulls in Japan and also in Bermuda after our permanent base is established there. We are aiming to have our team fully independent and operational by the end of 2015.”

“I know SoftBank Team Japan is starting late compared to some of the other teams, but I wouldn’t underestimate how competitive they are going to be,” said ORACLE TEAM USA skipper Jimmy Spithill.

“All of the teams are limited in the amount of practise time they can do on the one-design AC45 boats that we’ll be racing in Portsmouth. So I’m expecting Fuku and the guys on his boat to be racing hard and pushing us as well as the other teams.”

SoftBank Team Japan will join the other teams Artemis Racing, Ben Ainslie Racing, Emirates Team New Zealand, Team France and ORACLE TEAM USA on the start line for the first race of the 35th America’s Cup in Portsmouth on July 25th.

“Adding SoftBank Team Japan to the challenger line-up opens up a new audience in Asia for the America’s Cup,” said Commercial Commissioner Harvey Schiller. “Not only will Team Japan be a plus for the competition on the water, but this challenge will benefit all of the teams as well as the event by bringing a new audience back to the America’s Cup.”

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No room for complacency

Posted on 27 April 2015 by Reporter

[Source: Volvo Ocean Race] Dongfeng Race Team, fully recovered from the trauma of breaking their mast on the last leg, narrowly led the chase to Newport, Rhode Island, USA, on Monday. There was no room for the slightest complacency on the Chinese boat, with MAPFRE hot on their heels just 4.6 nm astern, and Team Brunel a further two nautical miles behind.

Even Team Alvimedica, so determined to win the 5,010nm stage from Itajaí, Brazil, to their home port of Newport, were far from out of contention.

Although in last place of the six boats, they were only 23.3 miles adrift of the leaders. Team SCA and overall race leaders, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, were also handily positioned, 19.5nm and 19.7nm respectively behind Dongfeng Race Team.

For Caudrelier the tension only continues to grow. After surprising most by sharing the points lead with the Emirati boat after four legs, they were forced to limp to Argentina and safety after fracturing the top of their mast 200nm from Cape Horn during Leg 5.

There was no option, but to replace their rig with only a couple of days to spare before the Team Vestas Wind Itajaí In-Port Race and the Chinese team’s skipper was concerned that the rig had not been fully tuned before starting Leg 6 on April 19.

If he were worried that Dongfeng would have lost the boat speed that posed such a threat to their competitors earlier in the race, then so far those fears have proved groundless.

Francisco Vignale, Onboard Reporter for MAPFRE, was trying to work out at the weekend how Caudrelier’s crew were extracting such pace from their identical, one-design Volvo Ocean 65.

“Dongfeng is sailing so fast that the team have been taking around half mile on each watch (every four hours),” he wrote. “All of this is a bit desperate and frustrating since we do not know why and how they always have that extra speed. Is it the mast? Do they have a new mainsail?”

Caudrelier sounded like a man who would love to know the secret himself. In a recent blog from his boat he wrote: “The wind is very light and unstable and each of the boats has good and bad phases. It’s hard on the nerves, no gain is ever for keeps.

“This Volvo Ocean Race is really something else. The move to a one-design boat has changed the race and made it even tougher. The permanent contact with our competitors is tiring and stressful.”
The fleet is expected to reach Newport from May 6-8 after around 17-19 days of sailing from Brazil through the Atlantic.

Over the next few days, they are likely to be pushed along by a two-knot current behind them, giving the entire fleet an ‘escalator’ effect.

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No hurry to leave!

Posted on 19 April 2015 by Reporter

[Source: Volvo Ocean Race] The Volvo Ocean Race fleet bid a lingering farewell after a successful stopover in Itajaí with an almost total lack of wind ensuring a go-slow departure for Leg 6 to Newport, Rhode Island, USA, on Sunday.

After watching the six boats drift in frustratingly super-light conditions in the south-east Brazilian port for nearly an hour, the Race Committee cut its losses and ruled that the fleet could sail into the open seas by drastically shortening the opening in-port lap.

Some 270,000 spectators have visited the Itajaí race village since the Leg 5 winners, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, arrived here on April 5. There were approaching 50,000 more for the departure of Leg 6, a 5,010-nautical mile stage, and the sailors appeared to be in no hurry to leave an electric atmosphere.

April 19, 2015. The start of Leg 6 in Itaja’; The fleet have passed the start line, Team Alvimedica make a good start. Ainhoa Sanchez / Volvo Ocean Race

April 19, 2015. The start of Leg 6 in Itaja’; The fleet have passed the start line, Team Alvimedica make a good start. Ainhoa Sanchez / Volvo Ocean Race

Team Alvimedica are the team with arguably the biggest desire to win the leg into their home port and they duly had the honour of leading the fleet out of Itajaí with barely three to five knots of boat speed. MAPFRE were their closest pursuers followed by overall race leaders Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, Team SCA, Dongfeng Race Team and Team Brunel in that order.

Walker and his crew, who head the leaderboard by seven points after Dongfeng failed to complete Leg 5 because of a broken mast, had a miserable start as they found themselves on the wrong side of the starting line and had to turn around in slow motion before setting off.

Once the fleet escapes the immediate shortage of breeze in almost Doldrums conditions, the fleet should find appreciably more wind up the Brazilian coast through the Atlantic.

The leg is unlikely to match the previous stage’s treacherous conditions through the Southern Ocean and south Atlantic, but there are still plenty of challenges to test the fleet to the full. Light winds, however, could still hamper them along the way.

The boats are expected to take around 17-20 days to reach Newport, the seventh port to host the race.

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Cup competitors agreed on racing format for 2017

Posted on 17 April 2015 by Reporter

[Source: ACEA] The America’s Cup competitors have agreed the format for racing in 2017 with all racing taking place on the waters of the Great Sound in Bermuda, the home of the 2017 America’s Cup.

“At our Competitor Forum meeting this week, the teams agreed on the details of our race program in 2017,” said Commercial Commissioner Harvey Schiller.

All teams will compete in a double round robin format for the America’s Cup Qualifiers, which will be sailed in the new America’s Cup Class foiling catamaran.

The top four challengers from the Qualifiers will advance to the Challenger Playoffs which consist of a match racing semi final and finals. The winner of the Playoffs will meet the defending champion, ORACLE TEAM USA, in the America’s Cup Match.

Racing will take place in June, 2017. A detailed race calendar will be determined by the Commercial Commissioner in consultation with the competitors and Regatta Director and published in due course.

However, on 20th April Emirates Team NZ has challenged the ACEA information posting on the team’s FB a statement that “Emirates Team New Zealand would like to clarify we did not agree on the format or location of the qualifier because we have still have our case for the previously agreed qualifier in Auckland pending arbitration.”

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Dongfeng set for in-port race return

Posted on 14 April 2015 by Reporter

[Source: Volvo Ocean Race] Dongfeng Race Team breathed a huge sigh of relief on Monday after the boat arrived in Itajaí right on schedule ready for the refit of a new mast. It has been a long journey for the stricken boat since the top of its mast fractured 200 nm from Cape Horn in heinous Southern Ocean conditions on March 30 during the treacherous Leg 5 from Auckland to Itajaí, south-east Brazil.

Suppliers, Southern Spars transported a new mast from Dubai, via Amsterdam, to Brazil and despite some major logistical challenges, that had arrived safely too by Sunday.

The boat itself was sailed by a shore crew team plus two Chinese sailors under jury rig, partly under motor, for 2,000nm through the Southern Ocean and South Atlantic for its rendezvous in Itajaí with the new mast. It had earlier found refuge in Ushuaia, Argentina, following the breakage.

April 09,Dongfeng Race Team mast is loaded in Amsterdam to Sao Paulo. KLM Cargo

April 09,Dongfeng Race Team mast is loaded in Amsterdam to Sao Paulo. KLM Cargo

Volvo Ocean Race Boatyard chief, Nick Bice, and his team will be working flat out with the Dongfeng Race Team shore team to ensure the boat is in optimum condition for the weekend’s Team Vestas Wind Itajaí In-Port Race on Saturday.

The ambition is to have the boat back in the water by Thursday with the new rig fitted and any other minor repairs carried out. “Today we know we’ll be ready for the next leg,” said Caudrelier early on Monday following the boat’s arrival. “Well done to the shore team.” He continued: “We hope to be ready on Thursday and go sailing in the evening to race on Saturday. Breaking the mast was a difficult moment. We lost the joint lead of the race, we lost eight points. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing are now far ahead and they have a big advantage. It will be difficult to come back and we’re close in points with the boats behind – we could very well finish fifth. We have to stay focused. We’ll do what we’ve done in the previous legs and we’ll see what happens. Anything could still happen.”

As they did not complete the leg, Dongfeng Race Team collected eight points to go seven behind stage victors Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.

However, as Caudrelier makes clear, there is still all to play for. Leg 6 sets off from Itajaí to Newport, Rhode Island on Sunday, April 19, and three more follow it including the transatlantic trip from USA to Lisbon (Leg 7).

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Cagliari cancelled

Posted on 10 April 2015 by Reporter

[Source: ACEA] The first America’s Cup World Series regatta is confirmed for Portsmouth, England, with racing on July 25-26.

The full event in Portsmouth runs from July 23 through July 26, with a wide variety of activities scheduled in the home port of the British challenger, Ben Ainslie Racing.

The event in Cagliari, Italy, previously scheduled for June, has now been cancelled following the announcement that Luna Rossa, the Italian challenger, has withdrawn from the America’s Cup.

The America’s Cup World Series in 2015 will consist of the following events:
Portsmouth, Great Britain – July 23-26, 2015
Gothenburg, Sweden – August 28-30, 2015
Hamilton, Bermuda – October 16-18, 2015

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Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing claim their second stage victory

Posted on 06 April 2015 by Reporter

[Source: Volvo Ocean Race] Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing buried the miserable memories of three years ago to win an epic Southern Ocean/south Atlantic crossing in Leg 5 and claim their second stage victory in the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15. In 2012, Walker’s crew were forced to return to Auckland with hull damage and eventually retired from the leg to Itajaí, Brazil.

They must have feared more of the same when Cyclone Pam delayed the departure from New Zealand for three days, but despite taking the worst that the Southern Ocean and then the south Atlantic could throw at them, the Emirati team emerged triumphant after nearly 19 days of ultra-challenging, super-tight sailing.

Buda Mendes / Volvo Ocean Race

Buda Mendes / Volvo Ocean Race

Amazingly, skipper Ian Walker reported that they had reached Itajaí with the least amount of work for their shore crew to do of any leg so far in this edition. To add the icing to their cake, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing set the new best mark in the chase for IWC prize for the most nautical miles sailed in 24 hours with 551nm leading up to Cape Horn.

“Awesome. It’s been such a monster of a leg, we were so, so stoked with the 24-hour record,” said a jubilant Walker, 45, straight after crossing the line in front of a waterfront packed by thousands of spectators. “That (IWC record) was actually what got us back up with the leaders. Since then we have sailed very, very well. It’s a very tight finish.” He credited his team’s versatility for much of their success (elapsed time for Leg 5: 18 days 23 hours 30 minutes 10 seconds). “Seven out of eight of our guys drive, so nobody has to drive for too long. We rotate everybody and I can’t speak highly enough of everybody in our team.” He added that he dropped the keel on two occasions in the heaviest of the weather with 50-knot winds (92.6 kilometres an hour) buffeting the fleet, losing some ground, but keeping his boat intact. “In hindsight, that looks a pretty shrewd decision,” Walker said.

Ainhoa Sanchez / Volvo Ocean Race

Ainhoa Sanchez / Volvo Ocean Race

The stage victory leaves Walker’s team seven points clear at the top of the standings with five of the nine legs now completed. That gap was opened up following the misfortune of a broken mast, which struck Dongfeng Race Team early last Monday and led to their retirement from the leg two days later.

The Chinese boat is now being sailed, partly under motor, to Itajaí where its shore crew face a race against time to have the new mast refitted in time for the start of the next leg to Newport, Rhode Island, on April 19. They will pick up eight points after failing to finish the stage and now stand on 16, still in second place, but only two ahead of MAPFRE and Team Brunel. Team Alvimedica are one further behind with Team SCA expected to finish on 29.

Ainhoa Sanchez / Volvo Ocean Race

Ainhoa Sanchez / Volvo Ocean Race

Walker, in his third race, is far too experienced to take anything for granted yet, however, despite becoming the first team to clinch their second stage win of the 2014-15 edition. The leg was incredibly closely fought throughout its 6,776nm with MAPFRE, Team Alvimedica and Team Brunel chasing Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing all the way to Itajaí and finishing in that order. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing beat the Spanish team by a little over 32 minutes with less than an hour separating the leading four (see panel above). As usual, Walker barely enjoyed a wink of sleep over the final 48 hours with his pursuers no more than 2-10nm behind him all that time.

Apart from the closeness of the racing – virtually unprecedented in the 41-year history of the race – the leg will be remembered for living up to its reputation as the most fearsome in the nine-month offshore marathon.
Along from Dongfeng’s broken mast, there were at least three cases of Chinese gybes when the boats crashed to their sides before righting, and there were numerous cases of other sail and equipment breakages.

Team SCA had more than their share of problems, damaging three sails and then suffering a port rudder breakage on Sunday. They are expected to finish the leg on Tuesday.

In all, the fleet will cover 38,739nm and visit 11 ports and every continent. The race concludes in Gothenburg, Sweden, on June 27.

Leg 5 finishing times
1. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing – 18 days 23 hours 30 minutes 10 seconds
2. MAFPRE – 19d 00h 02min 56s
3. Team Alvimedica – 19d 00h 24min 32s
4. Team Brunel – 19d 00h 25min 48s

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