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Close contact challenges

Posted on 30 October 2014 by Ivan Bidzilya

[Source:Volvo Ocean Race] It’s been 19 days and well over 3,500 nautical miles (nm) since the Volvo Ocean Race fleet set sail for Cape Town from Alicante, but the three leading boats are still within sight of each other with the fourth chasing them down just 18nm adrift. It could hardly be closer. The changing wind patterns are testing the navigators to the limit every day and there are issues from lurking icebergs ahead to electrical problems to keep each of the seven crews on their toes 24/7. No wonder the race is regarded as offshore sailing’s toughest professional test. Such a close packing of the crews so long into the opening leg is unheard of in the 41-year history of the event with the sprint to be the first to sight Cape Town’s Table Mountain, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, still anyone’s to win.

Matt Knighton/Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race

Matt Knighton/Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing narrowly have their noses in front (Ian Walker/GBR), 2nm clear of Team Brunel (Bouwe Bekking/NED) with Team Vestas Wind (Chris Nicholson/AUS) just 4.2nm further adrift. China’s Dongfeng Race Team (Charles Caudrelier/FRA) are by no means out of it either in fourth place on the tracker, nor even Team Alvimedica (Charlie Enright/USA) in fifth. At the back of the fleet, it is not such a happy picture. Team SCA (Sam Davies/GBR) are more than 300nm behind after suffering miserably through lack of wind, while MAPFRE (Iker Martínez/ESP) had huge problems with a broken water pipe on board and electrical problems. The Spanish crew had to bail out in a hurry to avoid serious misfortune and Martínez was close to appealing for help from land to help them sort issues with the charging of their engine, which performs a number of key functions including water desalination.

October 28, 2014. Leg 1 onboard MAPFRE. Xabi Fernandez, Michel Desjoyeaux, Nicolas Lunven working in the broken alternator. Francisco Vignale/MAPFRE/Volvo Ocean Race

October 28, 2014. Leg 1 onboard MAPFRE. Xabi Fernandez, Michel Desjoyeaux, Nicolas Lunven working in the broken alternator. Francisco Vignale/MAPFRE/Volvo Ocean Race

To add to the other factors to contend with, there’s a possibility of food shortages in the fleet with the estimated time of arrival to Cape Town now pushed a couple of days back to November 6 and an ice gate to skirt in the Southern Ocean to keep the fleet clear of growlers (bergy bits). Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s onboard reporter Matt Knighton (USA) explained, however, that the leading crews have learned to accept the close-quarter racing at the head of the fleet, a result of the new one-design Volvo Ocean 65. This is inshore-style racing played out hundreds of miles from the coast. “One might think that after 19 days of racing and being a long way from land we’re surprised to see another boat so close. To be honest, we’re not,” he said. “The shock of how close this one-design racing is has worn off. After the earlier battle down the African coast, it’s not surprising to see one or even two sails keeping pace with you for a very, very long time.”

October 28, 2014.  Leg 1 onboard Team SCA. What sailing hands look like after 18 days at sea. Abby Ehler.Corinna Halloran/Team SCA/Volvo Ocean Race

October 28, 2014. Leg 1 onboard Team SCA. What sailing hands look like after 18 days at sea. Abby Ehler.Corinna Halloran/Team SCA/Volvo Ocean Race

Ahead still lie the Roaring 40s, four or five-metre waves, steady 25-knot winds and the likely drag race towards South Africa next week. Cape Town’s magnificent port and setting will never be a more welcome sight for these 66 sailors.

October 28,2014. Leg 1 onboard Team Vestas Wind. A little bit of water on the decks today. Day 17 at Sea. Brian Carlin/Team Vestas Wind/Volvo Ocean Race

October 28,2014. Leg 1 onboard Team Vestas Wind. A little bit of water on the decks today. Day 17 at Sea. Brian Carlin/Team Vestas Wind/Volvo Ocean Race

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Team Brunel snatch lead – for now

Posted on 28 October 2014 by Ivan Bidzilya

[Source: Volvo Ocean Race] Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing have finally given ground to Team Brunel after almost exactly a week at the head of the fleet but the new leaders’ thin advantage may well be very short-lived as the Volvo Ocean Race Leg 1 turned into a game of hunt-the-breeze. Ian Walker’s (skipper-GBR) men edged ahead of the fleet on October 21 after leapfrogging past Dongfeng Race Team, having navigated the Cape Verde Islands.

They kept their noses in front until Tuesday morning when Bouwe Bekking (skipper-NED) and his crew moved into a 59-nautical mile advantage. But before Dutch race fans get too excited, their position only reflects their placing in the most easterly point of the fleet, closer to the opening leg finish in Cape Town.

October 27,2014. Leg 1 onboard Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing. Ian Walker and Simon Fisher . Matt Knighton/Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race

October 27,2014. Leg 1 onboard Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing. Ian Walker and Simon Fisher . Matt Knighton/Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race

Team Vestas Wind have gambled by following a course to the west of the two leaders but it was paying slim dividends with markedly less breeze where they were. Spain’s MAPFRE went even more for broke, heading 230nm west of Team Brunel but in the best gusts of the fleet.

Could that be the ploy to propel them first to the westerlies which could give them the crucial advantage in the Southern Ocean sprint to the finish?

“Right now it’s almost as if we’re in a three-way tie for the lead with each boat making bets as to where the breeze is going to be strongest as we make our way around the western edge of the St Helena High,” said Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s onboard reporter, Matt Knighton (USA).

“Vestas is way out west. We gybed westward a couple of times during the day to try and find more wind. Brunel opted to continue on our original southerly route and not gybe west.

“Three boats, spanning 100 miles of ocean, each with a chance of working around the other two to get around the high fastest. We’ve been routing all of our positions and if you were to trust the computer, we’d all be finishing within an hour of each other with Abu Dhabi in the lead.”

Meanwhile, the temperatures are dropping as the tension rises with the thermals being donned for the first time onboard Abu Dhabi while the women of Team SCA were putting on their fleece-layered hats.

The boats are expected to complete the 6,487nm first leg from Alicante to Cape Town around November 5 after setting out on October 11.

 

October 26, 2014. Leg 1 onboard Dongfeng Race Team. Kevin Escoffier getting wet in the foredeck. Yann Riou/Dongfeng Race Team/Volvo Ocean Race

October 26, 2014. Leg 1 onboard Dongfeng Race Team. Kevin Escoffier getting wet in the foredeck. Yann Riou/Dongfeng Race Team/Volvo Ocean Race

October 27, 2014. Leg 1 onboard MAPFRE. The Teacher and the student! Michel Desjoyeaux takes on the fathering role of the crew, Anthony Marchand on helm. Francisco Vignale/MAPFRE/Volvo Ocean Race

October 27, 2014. Leg 1 onboard MAPFRE. The Teacher and the student! Michel Desjoyeaux takes on the fathering role of the crew, Anthony Marchand on helm. Francisco Vignale/MAPFRE/Volvo Ocean Race

October 26, 2014. Leg 1 onboard Team SCA. Sara Hasreiter and Stacey Jackson grind during twilight. Corinna Halloran/Team SCA/Volvo Ocean Race

October 26, 2014. Leg 1 onboard Team SCA. Sara Hasreiter and Stacey Jackson grind during twilight. Corinna Halloran/Team SCA/Volvo Ocean Race

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Berntsson joins sailing’s elite

Posted on 27 October 2014 by Ivan Bidzilya

[Source: WMRT] Johnie Berntsson and his Stena Sailing Team today followed the world’s top sailors such as Russell Coutts, Peter Gilmour, Ben Ainslie and Chris Dickson in becoming a two time victor of the Argo Group Gold Cup, the sixth stage of the Alpari World Match Racing Tour. The 42-year-old Swede claimed the title 3-1 over Switzerland’s Eric Monnin in perfect conditions on Bermuda’s Hamilton Harbour with 11 knots of northwest wind and the morning’s cloud cover giving way to glorious sunshine.

The first two races were close featuring lead changes despite big splits between the competitors across the race course. In the first race Berntsson sneaked ahead of the Swiss team coming into the weather mark for the first time and hung on to the lead from there, despite Monnin continually nipping at his heels. In the second Berntsson led Monnin down the run, eventually taking the Swiss team well beyond the leeward gate before gybing back with the advantage. Monnin kept it close, but was unable get in front.

For race three, at match point for Berntsson, Monnin narrowly won a tacking duel going into the top mark to sneak inside Berntsson. After big splits down the run and again up the second beat, when the two boats converged coming into the top mark Monnin had extended and maintained his lead to the finish.

The fourth race saw the most lead changes with Berntsson ahead out of the start, Monnin pulling in front by the top mark, Berntsson then rolling the Swiss on the run…. However the decisive moment came towards the end of the second beat when Monnin picked up a penalty for tacking too close.

Eric Monnin and Johnie Berntsson in the Finals of Argo Group Gold Cup © Charles Anderson / AGGC

Eric Monnin and Johnie Berntsson in the Finals of Argo Group Gold Cup © Charles Anderson / AGGC

3-1 to Berntsson, who with his crew of tactician Robert Skarp, Bjorn Lundgren, Oscar Angervall, picked up the winner’s King Edward VII Gold Cup as well as the US$50,000 prize for first place.

“Winning this is so extraordinary,” commented a jubilant Berntsson after his victor’s dip in Hamilton Harbour. “We have done it once, we never thought we could do it twice. We are so happy that we have been so successful this week.” Berntsson previously won here in 2008. “This and the Congressional Cup are the two top victories we have.”

Of his Swiss opponent, Berntsson said: “We were never safe – the races we won, they were so close behind we had to fight really hard. Thanks to Robert, Bjorn and Oscar, who drove the boat fast and picked the right shifts allowing us to come back when we were behind, which were really crucial to winning.”

Explaining the big splits, the winning skipper explained: “The wind was not shifty – it was more puffy, so it was crucial to find the best spot and with these boats if you tack too much, you lose speed. I think the corners were better than the middle of the course, so if one of the teams chose one side you had to choose the other one if you wanted to get in front.”

Runner-up Eric Monnin praised Berntsson. “Congratulations to Johnie and the whole team – they did an excellent job. We just tried to find somewhere to squeeze in, which we could sometimes, sbut in the end they were stronger than us. We made some little mistakes, but honestly speaking Johnie had a great race throughout.”

Semi Final surprises 

This morning there was upset for the Alpari World Match Tour frontrunners when both Ian Williams’ GAC Pindar team and Taylor Canfield’s US One were knocked out in the Semi Finals. These races were held in a light northerly breeze blowing off downtown Hamilton, making for tricky, shifty winds on the race course.

Williams had picked Monnin to race in the Semi Final, leaving Canfield to line up against Berntsson. Williams, at this point unbeaten throughout this Argo Group Gold Cup, got off to a good start winning the first match, however Monnin went on to claim the next three.

© Charles Anderson/ RBYC

© Charles Anderson/ RBYC

The start of the penultimate race was particularly disappointing for Williams, as he described it: “We had him [Monnin] put away and we just got hooked and were a second over the start line with a penalty when we should have led comfortably off the line. He did a nice job, he did one tack and one gybe on each run and picked the left side and got it right. It was very hard to attack him from there.”

Berntsson v Canfield Semi Final went the full distance and then wasn’t decided until the final run when Berntsson rolled Canfield. Canfield gave his take on this: “Johnie tried to roll us. We had a piece of him as we luffed up. By not coming up as well he was able to get over the top of us and lead down to the leeward mark. If he had gone up with us, we would have been in better shape and he wouldn’t have had as big of a lead or have even have gotten the lead. But the umpires saw it differently.”

In terms of the top of the Alpari World Match Racing Tour’s overall scoreboard, the outcome of the Argo Group Gold Cup makes no difference, with Williams still holding a six point lead over Canfield going into the final event of the season, the Monsoon Cup. However by finishing fifth here, Bjorn Hansen has moved to within seven points of third placed Mathieu Richard.

Overall results of Stage 6 Argo Group Gold Cup, Alpari World Match Racing Tour

1 Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Stena Sailing Team
2 Eric Monnin (SUI) Swiss Match Race Team
3 Taylor Canfield (ISV) US One
4 Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar
5 Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Hansen Sailing Team
6 Pierre-Antoine Morvan (FRA) Vannes Agglo Sailing Team
7 Staffan Linberg (FIN) Alandia Sailing
8 Marek Stanczyk (POL) Henri Lloyd Rainmaker Racing
9 Francesco Bruni (ITA) Luna Rossa
10 Keith Swinton (AUS) Team Alpari FX
11 Mathieu Richard (FRA) LunaJets
12 David Gilmour (AUS) Team Gilmour
13 Nathan Outteridge (SWE) Artemis Racing
14 Chris Poole (USA) Riptide Racing
15 Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing
16 Arthur Herreman (FRA) Match The World
17 Dirk-Jan Korpershoek (NED) Korpershoek Racing
18 Somers Kempe (BER) Raymarine/Ocean Electronics
19 Lance Fraser (BER) Digicel Bermuda
20 David Storrs (USA) Pequot Racing Team

Final
Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Stena Sailing Team bt Eric Monnin (SUI) Swiss Match Race Team 3-1

Petit Final
Taylor Canfield (ISV) US One bt Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar 2-1

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The South Atlantic explained

Posted on 25 October 2014 by Ivan Bidzilya

[Source: Volvo Ocean Race] Every strategy from Fernando de Noronha to Cape Town implies the management of this High Pressure that is the counterpart of the Azores High in North Atlantic. In October, is still in a very high latitude, and as we cannot cross the windless center neither beat upwind, only option is to go south as fast as possible and get into the westerly’s to make east towards Cape Town.

Unfortunately for the chasing boats, there doesn’t seem to be many opportunities to catch up by choosing different strategies, as rounding Saint Helen is mainly a Horse Power issue.

Screen_Shot_2014-10-25_at_10.49.21_res

 

Screen_Shot_2014-10-25_at_10.49.30_test

However, subtle changes can make a difference enough to put pressure on the leaders.

From Fernando de Noronha to 20 S

This area is purely dominated by South Atlantic Trade Winds, and the main factors are 1. Management of the wind shift from SE to East. This is where the routing programm is a great tool, as it will help you to keep always the fastest angle that comepnsates the extra sailed distance. Normally, if you expect 10 degreees of wind shift you change your course half of the wind shift change.

Screen_Shot_2014-10-25_at_10.50.32_gonzalo

Equatorial currents

They head west with a set of about 1-2 kts which should be taken into account for course adjustment..

Management of Trade winds oscillations

Trade winds oscillation are short term wind variations that are expected during the day as a response to heat and some interesting thermodynamic effects at those latitudes. If a boat is headed and you expect the reverse shift over the near future sail low and fast..this is call CMG optimization.

Information and text provided by Gonzalo Infante, Race Control & Meteorology Manager for the Volvo Ocean Race.

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Yann Guichard and Spindrift 2 in the starting blocks in Saint-Malo!

Posted on 24 October 2014 by Ivan Bidzilya

[Source: Spindrift Racing] Never in the race’s 36-year history have there been so many competitors and so many huge trimarans. The 10th edition of the most famous single-handed transatlantic yacht race is already rewriting the record books. A record 91 sailors were in Saint-Malo this Friday for the opening of the official village, in the shadow of the city walls. As happens every year, large crowds will line the docks of the Breton city for the race start on Sunday, November 2nd. Perhaps the record 2 million visitors in 2010 will also be broken. What we can say for certain is that, at 40 metres long, Spindrift 2 will be the largest boat ever to compete in the race. You might think the skipper, Yann Guichard, was crazy, but the 40-year-old has every confidence in the preparations made by his team to make the maxi-trimaran competitive when raced by a single yachstman. Yann is driven by his competitive spirit, and is all set to do battle.

“We have just sailed Spindrift 2 from La Trinité-sur-Mer to Saint-Malo with some members of the technical and sailing team,” explains Yann, who leads a 30-strong team of people with Dona Bertarelli. “Not everybody could be aboard, but it was still lovely to share this moment with them and enjoy the boat together before the race. Our arrival in Saint-Malo is a symbolic moment. It feels like we have already achieved our first success. Before a race, I like to spend time with my family and to study the weather with my routers. I like to be surrounded by people, even though I gradually start moving into my bubble. The Route du Rhum is such a magical event that everybody wants to talk to the skippers. It is all part of the fun, but you must not overdo things. You have to save all your energy for the start of the race.”

Experience and confidence

Yann Guichard has been sailing since he was 10 years old. He has started hundreds of races in different types of boats, including the Optimist class, the 420, the Tornado in which he finished at a 4th place at the Sydney Games in 2000 and the AC45 on the America’s Cup World Series. He has also completed several transatlantic crossings in multihulls, both in races – notably the Transat Jacques Vabre with Marc Guillemot, Fred Le Peutrec and Lionel Lemonchois – and in record attempts, breaking the North Atlantic Record twice, first with Bruno Peyron, then with Franck Cammas, and breaking the Discovery Route record last year as skipper of Spindrift 2 alongside Dona and the crew. Yann is no rookie in the Route du Rhum’s Ultimate Class. In 2010, he took 4th place at the helm of the trimaran Gitana 11 in its 70 ft modified version.

This wealth of experience in a career spent aboard sundry multihulls, floating between the expanses of water and air, has given Yann the confidence he needs to compete single-handed in the Route du Rhum at the helm of the world’s largest racing trimaran, which can carry as much as 800 square metres of sail! “Before a race I feel calm but ready, and that is how I feel today,” he explains. “The stakes are high, which puts you under pressure. Of course I cannot be sure whether I will make it. You never can when you attempt something for the first time. As a team we have prepared exactly as planned, and with a week to go before the race I know I have made the right choice by competing in the Route du Rhum with Spindrift 2.”

Focus and desire

Experts and spectators are trying to predict what will happen in the Ultimate Class, which has eight contenders this year, including three boats that are more than 30 m long. “Physically, I am in great shape. I have been working on my fitness, and I realise how important it is every time I set sail,” explains Yann. “I continue to train to work on skills, but I feel strong, which is vital for my confidence. Once the weather forecast becomes clearer and we draw up our strategy for the first few days of racing, I will be ready to go. I know my opponents and I know the limits of solo racing on a boat as powerful as Spindrift 2, but if I have a good race with no technical or strategic errors I know I have a chance. That is why I am so excited about this race!”

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Equator takes its first scalp

Posted on 24 October 2014 by Ivan Bidzilya

[Source: Volvo Ocean Race] Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing won the race to the Equator late on Thursday and were in good shape to make the turning mark of Fernando de Noronha at the head of the Volvo Ocean Race fleet as their six rivals were still playing catch-up despite finally escaping the Doldrums.

Navigator Simon Fisher (GBR/Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing) has been his fellow Briton Ian Walker’s (skipper) key man for the past week as, first, he steered Azzam cleverly through the Cape Verde Islands ahead of the competition, and then guided them through the windless Doldrums in first place.

They now need to sail to Fernando, which is 200 nautical miles off the Brazilian coast, before turning at a 40-degree angle for the Roaring 40s, which will propel them headlong to Cape Town, the Leg 1 destination port, in the first week of November. Fisher and Walker certainly cannot rest on their laurels yet. In the last edition in 2011-12, PUMA had similarly navigated this stage of the race in second place, before they were dismasted and forced to motor miserably to Tristan de Cunha, an archipeligo in the South Atlantic, before finally being shipped to South Africa.

Additionally, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing have the added concern of second-placed Team Brunel (skipper Bouwe Bekking/NED) hot on their heels. By Friday at 0900 UTC, the Dutch crew were just 14nm behind and Team Vestas Wind (skipper Chris Nicholson/AUS) who were the quickest in the fleet in third spot thanks to stronger winds in their position further to the east.

All seven boats will have crossed the Equator by around 1300 UTC on Friday. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and Team Brunel did so before midnight (2200 and 2300 UTC respectively) and Team Vestas Wind at 0120 UTC. It is traditionally a key staging post in the race and an experience the members of the crews who have never done it before will always remember.

Each will have to perform a special ‘ceremony’ set up by their crewmates to appease both them and the sea god, Neptune. The initiation has been conducted by seamen the world over for generations.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s onboard reporter Matt Knighton (USA) says he enjoyed it – in a special kind of way – even though he suffered a ‘reverse mohican’ hairstyle to mark the occasion. “With the Equator trudging towards us with relentless persistence, the threat of my impending punishment and purification inched all the more closer with every sked (position report),” he writes.

“Since I was the only one on board who had not crossed the Equator before and was also American, I had a lot to atone for. But suffice to say, I couldn’t have asked for a better group of friends to be inducted by and I’m proud to be counted among their ranks. And I’m pretty sure my new haircut improves our aerodynamic performance.”

With another 10 days or so before their estimated arrival in Cape Town, the race is still wide open with just under half of the 6,487nm completed in the opening leg from Alicante.

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AIRBUS and ORACLE TEAM USA forge technology partnership

Posted on 23 October 2014 by Ivan Bidzilya

[Source: Oracle Team USA] AIRBUS, the world’s leading aircraft manufacturer and ORACLE TEAM USA, the defending champion of the America’s Cup, have forged a technology partnership.

As Official Innovation Partner of ORACLE TEAM USA for the 35th America’s Cup, AIRBUS will share the know-how of its engineers and experts in fields such as aerodynamics, instrumentation and simulation, composites, structures, hydraulics and data analysis to work with the ORACLE TEAM USA design team.

“This is a completely new endeavor for us,” said Fabrice Brégier, AIRBUS President and CEO. “By taking on an extreme technology and sports project of this magnitude we stretch our competencies and further boost our agility. There are so many similarities between the America’s Cup yacht and our aircraft design, that each partner benefits from an excellent platform not only to learn and grow but also to win.”

For ORACLE TEAM USA skipper Jimmy Spithill, the partnership will allow his team to benefit from the skill-set of a leading engineering group with experience working on the cutting-edge of technology.

“The America’s Cup is a boat race, but the design technology and engineering are very often the winning factor,” Spithill said. “The new America’s Cup boats are lighter and faster than what we’ve had before. They will be powered by a wing and will fly above the water on foils. They’re as much like airplanes as they are like traditional boats, so I know we’ll have a lot to learn from the experience the engineers at AIRBUS bring to the project.”

ORACLE TEAM USA first won the America’s Cup in 2010 racing a trimaran powered by one of the largest wings (223 feet / 68 meter) ever built. In 2013, the team successfully defended its title in the AC72 class – wingsail powered catamarans that flew above the water on hydrofoils at over 50 mph (90kph).

The next America’s Cup will be in 2017 and raced in the new AC62 class; a smaller, lighter and more finely engineered foiling catamaran than its predecessor that is expected to reach similar speeds.

“Everything we do in these boats is right at the edge of what’s possible,” Spithill said. “For our design team to be able to have access to the resources of AIRBUS is going be a huge benefit to us.”

“All at AIRBUS are very excited about this partnership,” concluded Brégier. “Our engineering teams’ enthusiasm and engagement to be a part of this project is simply overwhelming. The biggest challenge might be to bring them back working on airplanes again!”

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