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Iain Murray appointed as Regatta Director for 2017 America’s Cup

Posted on 18 December 2014 by Ivan Bidzilya

[Source: America's Cup] The Competitor Forum, comprising the six teams registered for the 2017 America’s Cup, has appointed Iain Murray as Regatta Director. Murray is a former America’s Cup skipper who also served as Regatta Director in the last America’s Cup.

Murray started in his role as of December 1 and has already been meeting with the teams as well as Commercial Commissioner Harvey Schiller via regular Competitor Forum conference calls.

Murray says he sees his appointment to a second term as Regatta Director as an opportunity to advance the America’s Cup forward beyond what was achieved last time.

“Leading into the last America’s Cup, there were so many major changes and collectively we learned so much about how to design, build and race these foiling multihulls,” Murray said. “Now we have the chance to fine-tune and make adjustments to make it even better.

“Whether it’s the conversion to foiling AC45s for the America’s Cup World Series, the new AC62s, the spectator experience, or the safety mechanisms – last time we really had to find our way. This time we have a template to work from and I expect we’ll see improvements across the board.”

In his role as Regatta Director, Murray will work in collaboration with all of the teams as well as Commercial Commissioner Harvey Schiller in setting the competitive parameters for the event.

Murray is required to nominate Regatta Officials, including a Measurement Committee and Umpires, as well as administer the Regatta Officials Fund to a budget agreed by the competitors. Each team contributes in equal measure to the Fund, initially through their entry fees.

“I’ve already seen a strong spirit of cooperation between the teams,” Murray said. “We’re focused on getting ready for the first America’s Cup World Series events in the new foiling versions of the AC45s, as well as pulling together a measurement committee and finalizing some details about the AC62. Everybody is contributing and the process is working well.”

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Volvo Ocean Race sets up report into Team Vestas Wind grounding

Posted on 16 December 2014 by Ivan Bidzilya

[Source: Volvo Ocean Race] An independent report into the grounding of Team Vestas Wind’s boat on a reef in the Indian Ocean has been set up by the Volvo Ocean Race.

The incident happened on November 29 on Leg 2 of the current 12th edition. The crew escaped safely after suffering minor injuries. The boat, Vestas Wind, ran aground on the Cargados Carajos Shoals (St. Brandon), 240 nautical miles northeast of Mauritius.

A panel, to be chaired by Rear Admiral Chris Oxenbould (Rtd), is to provide the Volvo Ocean Race with its final report by January 31, 2015.
Volvo Ocean Race intends to make the report publicly available to make sure its learnings benefit the whole sailing world and not only the race. This is scheduled for no later than during the Auckland stopover (February 27-March 15). It can draw upon a wide range of input from, among others, crew members of competing boats in the event, members of the race committee, electronic chart providers, and the emergency services organisers.

Rear Admiral Oxenbould is a former deputy chief of the Australian Navy and an experienced ocean racing yachtsman with a particular expertise in navigation. He is also the chairman of the Yachting Australia National Safety Committee.

Ocean navigational expert, Stan Honey who won the Volvo Ocean Race 2005-06 as navigator onboard ABN AMRO ONE, and Chuck Hawley who serves as the chairman of the U.S. Sailing Safety at Sea Committee, will assist the Rear Admiral Oxenbould on the report.

The panel will examine:

  • What happened and why Vestas Wind ran aground
  • Consider all the Race’s administrative procedures and documentation in place for the race
  • Review the emergency management procedures in place and their effectiveness in the incident
  • Make findings and recommendations as to any changes to the race rules, procedures, administration, documentation, boats or equipment that might serve to prevent a possible recurrence.

The Team Vestas Wind crew and sponsors are collaborating fully with the panel’s investigations.

Meanwhile, Team Vestas Wind reports that this weekend shore manager Neil Cox, accompanied by his team, will take advantage of stable weather conditions and return to the Cargados Carajos Shoals to continue the clean-up of the reef. Team Vestas Wind and Vestas are committed to removing the Vestas Wind from the shoals and restoring the area.

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Team Brunel wins 2nd leg with 16-minutes margin

Posted on 13 December 2014 by Ivan Bidzilya

[Source: Team Brunel] After a thrilling final Team Brunel has won the second leg of the Volvo Ocean Race. The Dutch Volvo Ocean Race boat sailed over the finish line in Abu Dhabi on Saturday morning 16 minutes ahead of the second-placed boat Dongfeng Race Team.It took skipper Bouwe Bekking and his men 23 days and 16 hours to cover the 6,125 nautical miles (11,300 km) from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi.

Team Brunel now stands in 1st place in the general ranking. The last miles were unbelievable tense. Yesterday Team Brunel lost the lead to Dongfeng Race Team. The distance between us was 1,5 Nm. In the following night the men of Team Brunel fought back to a distance of 0,7 Nm. “Nobody slept, it was a drag race,” says Bouwe Bekking with a smile on his face. “Suddenly the wind shifted slightly, this meant we could sail the last miles with a bit more speed and pass Dongfeng.”

December 13, 2014. The Abu Dhabi arrivals; Dongfeng Race Team fight Team Brunel to the finish line.Ainhoa Sanchez/Volvo Ocean Race

December 13, 2014. The Abu Dhabi arrivals; Dongfeng Race Team fight Team Brunel to the finish line. Ainhoa Sanchez/Volvo Ocean Race

Following an excellent start to the leg in Cape Town on 19 November, Team Brunel sailed its own race. Thanks to modifying the rotation of the watch system, the team performed even better than in the first leg. “We’ve learned a lot about handling the sails over the past weeks and because of that we’ve been sailing faster than we did on the first leg – particularly in light winds,” says Bouwe Bekking.

Three days after the start, the Indian Ocean showed its worst side. The wind blew at more than 30 knots from the south west straight into the strong Agulhas Current. Waves of more than three metres were the rule here rather than the exception. A few days later, the ocean was calm again and Team Brunel sailed into fourth place, only 8.6 miles behind the leader Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.

The days that followed passed exasperatingly slowly. “There was simply no wind. The rain was literally vertical,” says Gerd-Jan Poortman, on the quayside in Abu Dhabi. “Give me lots of wind any day because bobbing around in a calm is no fun at all. There were nights when I had to get out of bed five times to change sail.”

December 13, 2014. The Abu Dhabi arrivals; Team Brunel arrive as the winners of Leg 2!Ainhoa Sanchez/Volvo Ocean Race

December 13, 2014. The Abu Dhabi arrivals; Team Brunel arrive as the winners of Leg 2! Ainhoa Sanchez/Volvo Ocean Race

The next obstacle that the team had to face was a huge tropical cyclone that threatened the fleet from the north east. “The biggest problem was that the storm would hit us head on and bring large waves with it,” says Bouwe Bekking. “Fortunately the forecast turned out to be literally a storm in a teacup. The low-pressure area certainly brought a lot of wind but at 35 knots it was far from a tropical cyclone.” After this, the team had to cope with very light weather. “There came a point when it was at least 40 below deck,” says Louis Balcaen. “That was no joke, because the miles were passing very slowly. We still had 3,400 miles to sail at that point. The food bags were re-sorted. We would be getting two meals a day instead of three. Happily it turned out that, for some inexplicable reason, the GPS had added on more than 1,000 miles. So, at a stroke, the distance to Abu Dhabi was cut to only 2,400 miles.”

Last week looked more like match racing than an ocean race. Team Brunel and Dongfeng Race Team were sailing less than two miles from each other for days on end. “They were like sticky rice,” says Louis Balcaen. “We couldn’t get away from them, and at one point we could even smell their food.” “Just above the Equator, navigator Andrew Cape made a golden tactical decision,” says skipper Bouwe Bekking. “On Saturday morning, I was woken up by Andrew. He told me that a small low-pressure area had developed to the north west of our position and advised changing course by thirty degrees immediately. He had my full attention because this sort of change of course hardly ever happens. A bit later, I gave the order for a change of sail and a change of course.” This more easterly route turned out to be the right choice. “Together with Dongfeng Race Team, we overtook Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, which was sailing further to the west. In the first 45 minutes after the change of course, we also gained more than eight miles on Dongfeng Race Team.”

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The new 2015 M32 Series – multiple regional Series with a global footprint

Posted on 12 December 2014 by Ivan Bidzilya

[Source: M32 Class] At the heart of the new M32 Series is a simple philosophical approach – to enable talented sailors to compete in the fastest, most dynamic and competitive sailing events in the world, but at an affordable cost and thus on a regional basis. The new M32 Series fills an obvious void in the current sailing marketplace between the budgets needed for small boat dingy racing and the seemingly inaccessible world of large professional competition.

The new M32 Series sets out to provide a platform that is commercially viable for the teams, partners and sponsors as well as being exciting for the audience. For the amateur sailor, it provides a path for new, aspiring teams looking for a stepping stone to a career in professional racing and delivers them exciting and challenging arena-style racing that is attractive to the sailors and sponsors alike. For the professional racer, the new M32 Series delivers the highest levels of competition against their fellow accomplished sailors, themselves looking for a new series to complement their existing programs such as America’s Cup, Olympic Sailing, Extreme Sailing Series, World Match Racing Tour, IMOCA and Volvo Ocean Race.

M32 sailing during the practice day of the Extreme Sailing Series in Sydney, 10-12-2014. Sander van der Bodsch

M32 sailing during the practice day of the Extreme Sailing Series in Sydney, 10-12-2014. Sander van der Borch

And after staging a summer Series in Scandinavia and a Winter Series the USA during 2014, the M32 Cup is set to undergo unprecedented expansion in 2015 and deliver on its ambition of creating multiple regional Series, but with a truly global footprint. New circuits for the 32ft high performance racing catamaran will be launched in Iberia, European Lakes and the UK plus a North American Summer Series – and that’s just the start.

The Series is most established in Scandinavia and 2014 marked the second season of competition. This comprised five events, in Gothenburg (SWE), Oslo (NOR), Malmö (SWE), Copenhagen (DEN) and Stockholm (SWE). More than five boats competed in all the regattas with teams fielded by leading sailors such as three-time Olympic medallist Freddie Lööf, match racer and former Victory Challenge strategist Mattias Rahm and former Volvo Ocean Race sailor Klabbe Nylöf, while the circuit was won by the Atlanta Olympics Star Silver medallist, Hans Wallén.

This year was the second season for the M32 Scandinavian Series. This comprised five events, in Gothenburg (SWE), Oslo (NOR), Malmö (SWE), Copenhagen (DEN) and Stockholm (SWE). Five boats competed in all the regattas with teams fielded by leading sailors such as three-time Olympic medallist Freddie Lööf, match racer and former Victory Challenge strategist Mattias Rahm and former Volvo Ocean Race sailor Klabbe Nylöf, while the circuit was won by the Atlanta Olympics Star Silver medallist, Hans Wallén.

In 2015, the Scandinavian circuit will again feature five events but in place of Malmö, the 2015 Series will visit Finland for the first time. Racing will kick off in Oslo in May, before moving on to Gothenberg mid-June, the week before the Volvo Ocean Race fleet finishes there. It then moves to Copenhagen in August followed by Helsinki, Finland in September and on to the final in Stockholm in mid-September.

M32Cup Malmo 2014. M32 Class

M32Cup Malmo 2014. M32 Class

Aside from the slight change in the venues in 2015, the biggest development on the Scandinavian circuit will be in the numbers of boats competing. At least nine are expected, including some sailed by teams from outside of Scandinavia.

“There is huge interest at the moment,” admits Mathias Rahm who, in addition to being a competitor in the Scandinavian Series, is also its Managing Director. “We have around 20 teams working really hard to get into the Series in Scandinavia. We have interest from Scandinavia, of course, but also from other countries like Great Britain, Germany, and Poland – this shows that the way we run the Series is a smart way to do it.”

More immediately racing is set to resume in Florida for the M32 Miami Winter Series comprising of four events, starting on the 8th of January. This event will be followed by two more, back-to-back events, the first running into Bacardi Miami Sailing Week over the 1st-7th March.

Racing in Florida will conclude with the M32 Gold Cup, the class’ unofficial World Championship. This was first held in 2014 when it was won, like the Scandinavian circuit, by Hans Wallén. While six boats are set to compete in the Miami Winter Series, the fleet is expected to swell to 12-15 for the Gold Cup, with boats being shipped to Miami especially. Several of these will be chartered to teams looking to join the circuit, with names to be confirmed nearer to the time.

M32 team​s compet​e

A second US circuit will take place over the summer starting in San Francisco in May. The M32 US Series continues in Chicago, Long Island (NY), Newport and concludes in Boston in September.

For all these events, the M32 Cup’s organisers are guaranteeing that a minimum of five boats will compete, but interest is already outstripping supply. The M32’s Commercial Director, Martin Sohtell, confirms: “We already have the boats reserved for each Series, so we know we’ll have the boats that we say we’ll have.”

Further circuits in a number of regions of Europe will be announced in Q1-2015 when all of the details are finalised.

“We have an ambitious project with the M32s,” says Sohtell, who has been tasked with putting this together. “We are trying to create a regional professional series where established teams can use it for training, practice and to work with their sponsors. We are seeing quite a few teams from the America’s Cup, Extreme Sailing Series and Alpari World Match Racing Tour who will use this as a complement to their current sailing programs.”

In addition to the ‘big teams’, the aim is also for the M32 Cup to be used as an opportunity for aspiring pro sailors. According to Sohtell, the regional circuits for the M32 will allow fledgling teams to take part on a lower budget and then, if they succeed, to step up and to compete internationally.

Ultimately, Sohtell anticipates that the M32 Cup will be running at two levels – Grand Prix, for the pro teams or top private owners committed to competing in the whole circuit and a ‘Gran Turisma’ circuit suitable for private owners with less time and unable or unwilling to commit to competing on the Grand Prix circuit. The racing on the latter could include more traditional, longer courses, as well as established events such as the JPMorgan Asset Management Round the Island Race, Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week, Centoliglia, the Bol d’Or and Copa del Rey.

Race format for each regatta

M32 events take place over four days, with as many races being sailed as can fit in between 1400 and 1700. Courses follow the America’s Cup standard with high speed reaching starts, followed by two laps of a windward-leeward course before reaching in to the finish line. The competition will be close to shore with individual races taking 15-20 minutes. The M32 have employed several top names to run their circuit, including Mattias Dahlström as Race Director.

From the outset, the M32 Cup has been designed squarely to be a professional circuit with corporate backing for both the circuit itself and the competing yachts. This is already furthest advanced with the Scandinavian Series, now going into its third season. In 2014, most of the boats had sponsors while the Series had backing from Land Rover, Sail Racing clothing and Moet champagne.

Mathias Rahm, Managing Director of the Scandinavian Series says: “Now we can show people and the sponsors what we have been doing. They think that this is a great event. They compare it with the National Hockey League and the cross country skiing. Now we are on the same level as they are. So it is a huge opportunity that we have at the moment.”

Events will follow a standardised format and this doesn’t just extend to the racing, but shore side too. Sohtell expands on this: “We aim to give great exposure, have great hospitality and provide great opportunities for activation, be it business-to-business or business-to-consumer. And we have a great media set-up. This will be the same from event-to-event so that a team could go from one series to another and they and their sponsors know exactly what to expect. Hospitality will be of a certain standard, the exposure is the same and the rules are the same.”

Considerable investment is being made into the technology for the M32’s television offering, including the cameras and microphones that will be fitted to boats. This will be first tested at the M32 Gold Cup. “It is going to take the best from the developments we have seen in sailing over the last few years and add some features we’ve seen from other areas, like Formula 1,” says Sohtell.

In 2015, the intention is to have eight-to-ten events spread across the circuits where there will be live TV.

With the additional Series that are to be announced over the coming weeks, the M32 Cup is set to one of the fastest growing classes of all time. Sohtell concludes “Across the world, we see 25 and 40 regions that could hold a M32 series over the coming years. 2015 is just the start of the evolution of the M32 Series, and I am confident that it is going to be followed up by plenty more in the coming years.”

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2016 Vendée Globe: up to 25 boats at the start

Posted on 09 December 2014 by Ivan Bidzilya

[Source: Vendee Globe] With less than two years to the start of the Vendée Globe, Bruno Retailleau, President of the Saem Vendée, gave a complete rundown of the situation concerning the eighth Vendée Globe at the Paris Boat Show this afternoon (Tuesday). As well as confirming the start date for Sunday 6th November 2016, we also learnt that around fifteen sailors are already certain to compete and that 20-25 were well advanced in their project. This press conference was also an opportunity for Sodebo and the town of Les Sables d’Olonne to announce that they have renewed their commitment to the race. Many skippers were also present to present their projects.

The start date is now official. The start of the eighth edition of the non-stop solo round the world race, the 2016-2017 Vendée Globe, will take place on Sunday 6th November 2016. Bruno Retailleau, President of the Vendée Council and the SAEM Vendée, the event organiser, appeared very optimistic. “Everything seems to be looking favourable for this edition, both in terms of the race and the organisation.” After showing a teaser video, Bruno Retailleau reminded everyone of some very impressive figures. “The Vendée Globe is already France’s leading sporting event in terms of media coverage along with the Tour de France and Roland-Garros with coverage representing 200 million euros. We can also see some other data about the 2012 event, which illustrated how exceptional the impact was for such an ocean race. 9 million single visitors looked at the website during the three months of the race, 285 million pages were viewed, 30 million videos watched, 500,000 players joined in with the Vendée Globe Virtual Game, 85 hours of live TV were watched, 1,700 accredited journalists attended the Race Village at the start…”

Sodebo back as partner to the event

The digital boom with Internet and social networking means we can look forward to even greater coverage for the 2016-2017 edition. Bruno Retailleau explained, “New media arrangements and innovative editorial formats will mean increased coverage of the race, the skippers and the partners. During the race, the Vendée Globe will have its own Web TV broadcasting 24 hours a day with three live daily broadcasts and two weekly shows. People will be able to follow closely the lead up to the race with a video magazine “Aiming for the Vendée Globe” which will throw the spotlight on all the news concerning the various projects.”

In addition to this, 90 % of the budget for the event has already been secured, in particular, because the three major partners for the Vendée Globe, the Vendée Council, Sodebo and the town of Les Sables d’Olonne have renewed their support for the Everest of the Seas. Patricia Brochard, President of the Sodebo Group and Didier Gallot, Mayor of Les Sables d’Olonne, were on the stage to express their support for the Vendée Globe, alongside Jean-Pierre Champion (President of the French Sailing Federation), Jean Kerhoas (IMOCA President) and Denis Horeau (Race Director).

20 to 25 boats at the start

As for the race, the Notice of Race has been drawn up. The DNA of the Vendée Globe has of course been respected and there are no major changes. The Jury and Race Committee have been appointed. The President of the Jury will be Bernard Bonneau, “one of the most famous judges in the sailing world, who will also be President of the Jury at the Rio Olympics in 2016.” Bruno Retailleau handed over the microphone to Jean Kerhoas, who spoke about the new IMOCA class rules and the question of the use of foils, which should add to the technological attraction of the Vendée Globe.

The sailors were quite naturally given pride of place at this conference. Bruno Retailleau reminded everyone that there is ongoing contact with all the solo sailors. “In this difficult economic context, the Council and the SAEM Vendée offer their help to the skippers, who are looking for sponsors, through the use of marketing and communication tools, but also with joint meetings in order to explain the high return on investment that an event like the Vendée Globe with such media coverage offers.” No fewer than around thirty sailors hoping to compete in the Vendée Globe made the trip to present their projects (see below).

To sum up, “We already have fifteen teams committed, which is much more than we had with two years to go to the 2012 race, and we are confident that we should have between 20 and 25 boats on the start line on 6th November 2016,” declared Bruno Retailleau. “We’re looking at quality too, as a third of this fleet will be made up of new boats, which is an exceptional proportion and even a unique situation in such ocean races.” The President of the Saem Vendée concluded, “The 2016 edition of the Vendée Globe looks like being an exceptional one from every point of view. Firstly, with a line-up offering quantity, quality and diversity, which promises an exciting race out on the water. Then there is the coverage, which is being stepped up. Finally, with solid partnership agreements, we are able to work without any worries. All of this will strengthen the Vendée Globe in its position as the greatest ocean race in the world.”

The 15 sailors already committed 

Aboard seven new boats:

  • Morgan Lagravière (FRA / Safran),
  • Armel Le Cléac’h (FRA / Banque Populaire),
  • Alex Thomson (GB / Hugo Boss),
  • Sébastien Josse (FRA / Groupe Edmond de Rothschild),
  • Andrea Mura (ITA / Vento Di Sardegna),
  • Jean-Pierre Dick (St Michel-Virbac),
  • Nandor Fa (HG / Spirit of Hungary).

Aboard eight existing boats:

  • Vincent Riou (FRA / PRB),
  • Yann Eliès (FRA/Groupe Quéguiner),
  • Jérémie Beyou (FRA / Maître Coq),
  • Tanguy de Lamotte (FRA / Initiatives Cœur),
  • Louis Burton (FRA / Bureau Vallée),
  • Eric Bellion (FRA / Comme 1 seul Homme),
  • Rich Wilson (USA / Great America IV),
  • Armel Tripon (FRA / For Humble Heroes).

Other projects that are underway: with varying degrees of progress, some of these sailors also attended the press conference: Sébastien Audigane (FRA), Yannick Bestaven (FRA), Nicolas Boidevezi (FRA), Arnaud Boissières (FRA), Ryan Breymaier (USA), Christophe Bullens (BEL), Guo Chuan (Chine), Bertrand de Broc (FRA), Fabien Delahaye (Fra), Kito de Pavant (FRA), Eric Defert (FRA), Alessandro Di Benedetto (ITA), Raphaël Dinelli (FRA) Corentin Douguet (FRA), Marc Emig (FRA), Roland Jourdain (FRA), Jean Le Cam (FRA), Eric Loizeau (FRA), Nicolas Lunven (FRA), Paul Meilhat (FRA), Gildas Morvan (FRA), Alex Pella (ESP), Jeff Pellet (FRA), Juan Carlo Pedote (ITA), Christopher Pratt (FRA), Jorg Riechers (ALL), Phill Sharp (GBR), Bernard Stamm (SUI),… and this list is not exhaustive…

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Team Brunel leads with under 1000 miles to finish

Posted on 08 December 2014 by Ivan Bidzilya

[Source: Team Brunel] After nearly week-long match racing, Team Brunel finally got ahead of their rivals – Dongfeng. Stefan Coppers reports from the Dutch boat: Our distance from the Chinese boat has been the subject of various bets for a few days now. It began with someone saying “I’ll bet a roll of biscuits that we extend our lead by more than half a mile in the next two hours”. After that, the liquorice, Fruitellas and the chocolate mousse were also sacrificed and vanished from the snack box.”

“Just above the Equator, we made a golden tactical decision,” says skipper Bouwe Bekking from the Indian Ocean. “On Saturday morning, I was woken up by our navigator Andrew Cape. He told me that a small low-pressure area had developed to the north west of our position and advised changing course by thirty degrees immediately. He had my full attention because this sort of change of course hardly ever happens. A bit later, I gave the order for a change of sail and a change of course.”

This more easterly route turned out to be the right choice. Together with Dongfeng Race Team, we overtook Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, which was sailing further to the west. In the first 45 minutes after the change of course, we also gained more than eight miles on Dongfeng Race Team. A few hours later, we were once again parked under a raincloud, but after that we again gained a few miles on the Chinese team. In the hours that followed, thanks to a lot of hard work, we were once again in the lead.”

Bouwe Bekking grins at the thought of a victory but warns, “Just before we arrive in Abu Dhabi, we pass through the Straits of Hormuz, a stretch of water that’s surrounded by high mountains. That is perhaps the most difficult stretch of this leg. There’s a big chance that there’ll be no wind there.” “We’re clearly faster than we were in the first leg, and sailing in the lead is always good for morale.” On deck, the lads are not quite as reticent. “We’re on fire!” someone shouts in the cockpit. “I bet that we have a seven-mile lead by the end of the day,” laughs Pablo Arrarte. And within the hour a roll of chocolate biscuits will be joyfully shared out on deck.

Obviously, the Dongfeng crew is not happy at all despite the gap is still under 10 miles and manageble so far. Yann Riou reveals: “We are trying every trimming setup possible, every single configuration, but it’s not going well and we are very wound up! »

Thomas Rouxel Easy for our boys on Dongfeng to forget that they are having a good leg so far, in 2nd place with the fleet stretched out behind them and Brunel – even race favourites Abu Dhabi are for once tucked in behind them by a few miles. But as they have seen an 8 mile advance dissolve to a 6 mile deficit, their lack of speed upwind against Brunel is really starting to get to them. Yesterday, they wondered if the lateral displacement of just a few miles was the reason – but since having tucked in on the same line, they’ve still been losing mile after mile.

Of course, the numbers are still very small – and anything can happen as the finish phase in the Gulf approaches – but for these perfectionists of speed and performance, there is no doubting how much it is winding them up! Like the F1 team that just can’t find that last bit of pace so that however good their driver is, they can’t get to the front of the grid. Only this time all the machines are the same – so it can only come down to how the sailors trim the sails and set up the balance of the boat between the sail shape and choice, heel and balance of the boat laterally, fore and aft, how to steer the boat through the sea and the small changes in wind angle and strength. One thing is for sure, the determined men of Dongfeng are not going to give up trying to find the tenth or two of a knot they are missing against the Dutch.

Having had good or even best in fleet speed with the wind behind them on the first leg, this is yes of course frustrating for them – but its equally a great learning curve that can only exist when you are so close to another boat you know you have the same conditions. And for that, as Yann describes here, it’s a great advantage for the rest of the race. In terms of strategy, there are not so many options now for the leaders as they head north towards Oman, Iran and the entrance of the Straits of Hormuz. With an exclusion zone to their west, and a wind from the north east the options are limited.”

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The duel

Posted on 07 December 2014 by Ivan Bidzilya

[Source: Volvo Ocean Race] Stefan Coppers is ecstatic. 18 days after leaving Cape Town, Team Brunel have grasped the first position, and it makes their Onboard Report very happy. “We’ve had a good night with big gains,” tempers his skipper, Bouwe Bekking. “But nothing is decided yet. There will be big gains and big losses to make in the last part of the race.”

Bouwe and his guys have been fighting with Dongfeng Race Team for days, and they’ve gone from second to first overnight.First, both teams have been chasing Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing together.

December 05, 2014. Leg 2 onboard Dongfeng Race Team. Yann Riou/Dongfeng Race Team/Volvo Ocean Race

December 05, 2014. Leg 2 onboard Dongfeng Race Team. Yann Riou/Dongfeng Race Team/Volvo Ocean Race

In the lead for a week, the Emirati boat has been a clear, brilliant frontrunner through the first Doldrums, across the Equator, and through the second area of light air. Then, yesterday night, as the fleet exited these second Doldrums, the Dongfeng guys grabbed the first place. Brunel kept breathing down their neck, and Abu Dhabi dropped to third place. In the morning, the Dutch team had gone from second to first, enjoying the first northeasterly trade winds. And Dongfeng, their direct opponents, did not like that.

“We’ve lost nearly eight miles to Brunel for the past 24 hours,” grumbles Charles Caudrelier. “We were always a bit slower, 0.2, 0.3 miles.”

Steering Dongfeng, he looks up and adds, “We thought it was trimming, but I think we were just not in the same wind. It’s complicated when you’re slow, because you try to trim differently. You lose your references. “It was only a mistake. It was just a wind problem.”

Martin Strömberg, one of Charles’ sailors, smiles a little and admits, “It has been a little bit stressful.”
It takes a lot for the only Swede of this French-Chinese crew to confess that. His teammates call him “the diesel”, for his slow start and remarkable constancy.

But this battle exhausts him. “Brunel has been a little bit faster all the time to windward. It puts a lot of pressure on us, and we take it as a challenge. We’ve done pretty well.”

December 5, 2014. Leg 2 onboard Team Brunel. Bouwe Bekking on helm, pushing hard to get the advantage over Dongfeng, and to catch Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing. Stefan Coppers/Team Brunel/Volvo Ocean Race

December 5, 2014. Leg 2 onboard Team Brunel. Bouwe Bekking on helm, pushing hard to get the advantage over Dongfeng, and to catch Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing. Stefan Coppers/Team Brunel/Volvo Ocean Race

Some 550 nautical miles south of the top of the east African exclusion zone, right off the eastern tip of Somalia and west of southern India, this duel isn’t over.

There are over 1,000nm left to Abu Dhabi, the home boat is only a mile or two behind them, and three more teams are chasing the leaders, planning to make the most of a possible compression zone in the Gulf. “We’re slowly getting faster,” grins Martin before going back to trimming the sails in the moonlight.

 

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Dramatic video of Vestas Wind grounding

Posted on 05 December 2014 by Ivan Bidzilya

[Source: Volvo Ocean Race] Now as the Team Vestas Wind is on the mainland, the pieces of the story are starting to come together. Volvo Ocean Race have released the first images and video from when Team Vestas Wind struck the coral reef off the Cargados Carajos Shoals, some 200 miles north-east of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean.

The team’s main sponsors, Vestas, a wind energy company, said they were now focused on returning to the race which will continue until the end of June 2015. “Though we won’t be able to compete in the next leg from Abu Dhabi to Sanya, China, we are considering all available options for re-joining the race at a later stage,” said Morten Albæk, Vestas’ chief marketing officer.

“We’ll learn more about the details of what happened exactly when we have a chance to properly debrief with the crew, which we expect to happen in Abu Dhabi over the weekend.”

A spokesman from fellow sponsor Powerhouse added: “We at Powerhouse are extremely relieved that no one was injured as a result of the incident. “When we entered the Volvo Ocean Race with Team Vestas Wind we understood it would be life at the extreme.
“The team still faces many uncertainties, however, we are more than ever committed to support the team in this extremely challenging situation and help them to get back in the race. We are deeply involved, in successful times and in challenging times.”

November 30, 2014. Team Vestas Wind's boat grounded on the Cargados Carajos Shoals, Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean. Brian Carlin/Team Vestas Wind/Volvo Ocean Race

November 30, 2014. Team Vestas Wind’s boat grounded on the Cargados Carajos Shoals, Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean. Brian Carlin/Team Vestas Wind/Volvo Ocean Race

 

November 30, 2014. Team Vestas Wind's boat grounded on the Cargados Carajos Shoals. Brian Carlin/Team Vestas Wind/Volvo Ocean Race

November 30, 2014. Team Vestas Wind’s boat grounded on the Cargados Carajos Shoals. Brian Carlin/Team Vestas Wind/Volvo Ocean Race

 

November 30, 2014. Team Vestas Wind's boat grounded on the Cargados Carajos Shoals. Brian Carlin/Team Vestas Wind/Volvo Ocean Race

November 30, 2014. Team Vestas Wind’s boat grounded on the Cargados Carajos Shoals. Brian Carlin/Team Vestas Wind/Volvo Ocean Race

December 03, 2014. Team Vestas Wind crew arrives to Mauritius with all the equipment they rescued from the boat after grounding on the Cargados Carajos Shoals on the 29th November; The crew are safe and uninjured but had to abandon the ship after it sustained damage to the stern.Marc Bow/Volvo Ocean Race

December 03, 2014. Team Vestas Wind crew arrives to Mauritius with all the equipment they rescued from the boat after grounding on the Cargados Carajos Shoals on the 29th November; The crew are safe and uninjured but had to abandon the ship after it sustained damage to the stern.Marc Bow/Volvo Ocean Race

December 03, 2014. Team Vestas Wind crew arrives to Mauritius with all the equipment they rescued from the boat after grounding . Marc Bow/Volvo Ocean Race

December 03, 2014. Team Vestas Wind crew arrives to Mauritius with all the equipment they rescued from the boat after grounding . Marc Bow/Volvo Ocean Race

December 03, 2014. Team Vestas Wind crew arrives to Mauritius with all the equipment they rescued from the boat after grounding.

December 03, 2014. Team Vestas Wind crew arrives to Mauritius with all the equipment they rescued from the boat after grounding. Marc Bow/Volvo Ocean Race

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