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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.

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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.

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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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To the Trade Winds – Leg 1 Week 2

Posted on 22 October 2014 by Ivan Bidzilya

[Source:B&G] It couldn’t last – all that tight inshore racing. The Atlantic Ocean is too big a place to roam around in a pack, and sooner or later something was going to create a split, it turned out to be a broken rudder and the Cape Verde Islands.

Last Tuesday we left the fleet north of the Canary Islands, tracking close to the coast of Africa. There were some deeply unpleasant schedules immediately afterwards with not much wind around – but no one managed to make any kind of breakaway. Everyone wanted to stay close to the coast, because the sea/land transition, and the thermal differences found there, would create wind even when there was very little gradient breeze.

They all got going on Wednesday as the wind eased round to the north-east from the trade wind direction, even if there was little of the fabled trade wind velocity. It remained tricky sailing and early on Saturday morning (18th – all times are UTC), almost the whole fleet was still stuck together on the African coast. The exception was Team SCA, who got burned flying a little too close to the sun (the Sahara) on Friday, and then picked up a fishing net.

Conditions finally improved on the Saturday, and when the trade winds filled in strongly from the north-northeast, the fleet high-tailed it out of there.

Breaking the Rudder

Early on Saturday morning, the leader, Dongfeng Race Team, hit something solid and they hit it hard. They broke the rudder and spent a couple of hours putting the spare in place. And this is where our story begins…

Pic 1 – © Volvo Ocean Race

Pic 1 – © Volvo Ocean Race

Once the Chinese were back up and running, the fleet were gybing downwind in perfect trade wind conditions throughout Saturday. It should have been fun sailing (Pic 1), even if things were a little tense. The wind was shifting, and everyone was hyper-aware that at some point they had to pick a lane for the Doldrums.

No one wanted to commit first and everyone wanted to play the fleet – so they traded gybes; trying to stay on the favoured side of the pack and on the favoured gybe, and to not go past the point of no-return, where they would miss the moving target they had pinned on the entrance to the Doldrums; a target that moved with every new weather forecast. And if all that wasn’t bad enough, sometimes the favoured route was also taking them right through the middle of the Cape Verde Islands.

It was like a game of chicken, big volcanic islands rising up to almost 3,000m, create a lot of disturbance in the wind. Any boat that took the inside option and went through the islands might be sailing faster towards the target, but if they got parked up in the lee of a volcano for a couple of hours, the gains would disappear like tears in the rain.

Wardrobe Malfunction

Pic 2 – © Volvo Ocean Race

Pic 2 – © Volvo Ocean Race

The split started to appear overnight on the 18th /19th October (Pic 2). The broken rudder had positioned Dongfeng Race Team to the south-east of the pack, and they then got a great wind shift that was taking them fast in the right direction. The combination of these two factors made the route through the islands too tempting to ignore. Navigator, Pascal Bidégorry and skipper Charles Caudrelier went for it.

I suspect that the rest of the fleet were already sailing higher than their fastest VMG angles to get around the top of the islands, so Dongfeng almost immediately got back the lead they had lost because of the broken rudder –
and some… but could they hold it all the way to the other side, never mind all the way to the Doldrums?

Once the news of Bidégorry and Caudrelier’s gamble got out and the early gains became clear (they jumped out to a 30 mile lead by Sunday morning), Team Vestas Wind and MAPFRE decided to go with them, and suddenly it was game on.

Tense and Tricky

Pic 3 – © Volvo Ocean Race

Pic 3 – © Volvo Ocean Race

The main action in the Cape Verdes (sounds like a WW1 naval report) happened on Sunday 19th , as we can see in Pic 3. No one was having an easy time with 100km of leverage between the leader of the north-western bunch – Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing; and to the south-east, Dongfeng Race Team. At this point the scores on the board had the Chinese team over 60km ahead of the Emiratis – but the game was far from over.

Pic 4 – © Volvo Ocean Race

Pic 4 – © Volvo Ocean Race

It looks like Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and Team Brunel went looking for an accelerated wind funneling around the island, while Dongfeng Race Team were working hard to play the wind shifts. By Sunday evening, they were all clear of the islands (Pic 4) and the leverage between the north-west and south-east wings of the fleet was now a whopping 160km – with Dongfeng Race Team ‘leading’ by 73km.

Converging

One of the favourite maxims of this blog, is that a lead isn’t a lead until you have banked it, and closed the leverage back down. In this case, the convergence started quickly, and it was soon clear that the north-west wing was now taking back their losses. All four boats gybed to port, and came steaming out of the north with a great shift and good breeze. The three to the south were having to work much harder – as you can see from the number of gybes they threw in as the fleet came back together (Pic 5).

Pic 5 – © Volvo Ocean Race

Pic 5 – © Volvo Ocean Race

By the morning of the 20th October, the fleet were all lined up west to east, with just a handful of clicks between Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and Dongfeng Race Team on the leaderboard. From a casual glance, it seemed that the Cape Verde split had made little difference after a day and a half of tense racing. But no… they were still 60km apart in leverage – and this is where the Cape Verde split will have its biggest consequences.

Pick a Lane

The Doldrums were looming fast, less than 24 hours ahead of the fleet and the opportunities to change lane before they hit them had pretty much reduced to zero. So, west to east, left to right in the front row we had Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, Team Brunel, Dongfeng Race Team, MAPFRE and Team Vestas Wind.

The old salts say that west is best to cross the Doldrums. It cost them to get there – but maybe Ian Walker and the Emirati’s strategy to go to the north of the Cape Verde’s would finally pay out like a run on a Vegas slot machine?

Impact!

At the time of writing, the most recent report is from the morning of Tuesday 21st October, and the fleet have hit the Doldrums and hit them hard (Pic 6). The boat’s tracks have gone wobbly, speeds have plummeted and the wind arrows have reduced to little dots – the cloud battle has begun.

Pic 6 – © Volvo Ocean Race

Pic 6 – © Volvo Ocean Race

The navigators will have switched from strategic mode – worrying about weather models and routing software – into tactical mode, focused on the B&G radar to try and read what’s coming their way in the next cloud.

What Happens Next?

We mentioned in the preview that traditionally 27-28W is the best place to enter the Doldrums. In (Pic 6) the light blue line you see to the left of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing is 30W. So Walker is set up on about 29W, while 130km to the east, Team Vestas Wind are on about 27W – no one is taking a flyer here.

But look at those faint wind arrows at the bottom of the picture, they are slightly but significantly bigger and stronger to the west. It looks like the western boats have the narrower band of Doldrums to cross. If they get an even break with the clouds, they should come out first.

Sail boat racing doesn’t always work like that though, and once they are out the other side of the Doldrums, the relative exit positions from east-to-west will still have a big impact on the drag race to FdN in the south-east trades. An eastern boat will have a wider, faster angle… but if I had to put money on it, I’d say that this later gain isn’t going to outweigh the advantage that the western boats should have by exiting first.

Of course, these are the Doldrums, and something else entirely could happen – but for now, the dice has been rolled, the lanes have been picked and we just have to sit back and watch it play out…

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Dongfeng’s broken rudder setback

Posted on 18 October 2014 by Ivan Bidzilya

[Source: Volvo Ocean Race] Dongfeng Race Team lost the lead in the Volvo Ocean Race early on Saturday after the boat hit an unidentified object and broke their rudder. They lost the lead but replaced the decimated part and they were soon back sailing at 20 knots. The problem enabled Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing to take the lead but the rest of the fleet were still hot on their heels. The Chinese team’s problems began at 0210 UTC when a ‘violent impact’ hit the boat. Dongfeng’s onboard reporter Yann Riou picks up the story: “We had two options, installing the emergency rudder or removing what was left of the old rudder and putting the new one in place. We decided to go for the second option.

“Thomas (Rouxel) put the diving suit on. He jumped into the water… removed what was left from the old rudder (not much) and we put the new one in place.

“We are all disappointed… it does not look very fair but there’s nothing to do about this.”

It has not been plain sailing for Ian Walker’s Abu Dhabi crew either. They reported narrowly missing a net yesterday afternoon but the winds were so light that they were able to take avoiding action. Team Brunel and Team SCA were not so lucky and were held up briefly after debris caught in their keels. The Dutch boat even had to send a swimmer into the water to dive down to remove a strip of rubber from their keel. The women’s team also showed an irregular track and reported running into a fishing net, leading to more lost time behind the rest of the fleet who are now some 50 miles ahead of them.

The seven-strong fleet were expected to arrive in Cape Town in the first leg from Alicante at the beginning of November but their estimated arrival may be delayed after light winds in the Atlantic held up their progress.

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The real Volvo Ocean Race

Posted on 15 October 2014 by Valencia Sailing

Although we have been critical of the Volvo Ocean Race communication philosophy a few times, we have to admit that the quality of footage produced by the onboard reporters on Alvimedica and Vestas Wind is outstanding.

Brian Carlin, onboard Vestas Wind, sent a very sincere report of a difficult 24 hours that saw one laptop dying after taking a swim and a VO65 getting trapped in a breeze of 1.5 knots while the rest of the fleet was sailing away. Move forward to 2:03 in the clip to watch how skipper Chris Nicholson described his boat’s situation: “We’re in deep s–t here”. One can’t give a more honest assessment of one’s troubles!

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Record 123 yachts to compete in 2014 Rolex Middle Sea Race

Posted on 14 October 2014 by Ivan Bidzilya

[Source: Rolex Middle Sea Race] A record-breaking 123 yachts from more than 20 countries will cross the starting line of the Rolex Middle Sea Race on 18 October, reflecting the international stature of this popular offshore race organised by the Royal Malta Yacht Club.

The unprecedented number of entrants – a 24 percent increase over the 99 yachts competing in 2013 – includes boats from as far away as the United States and Australia along with thirteen yachts from Malta. More than 15 boats will compete for the first time.

The Line Honours favourite is Igor Simcic’s Maxi, Esimit Europa 2, skippered by multiple Olympic and America’s Cup winner Jochen Schumann. The 100ft canting keel maxi has taken line honour victories in the years from 2010 – 2012, becoming only the second yacht in the history of the RMSR to take it three times in a row. Unable to compete in last year’s edition due to damage suffered on the mast on their way to the race, the crew is returning with the goal of taking line honours for an unprecedented fourth occasion.

Now in its 35th year, the Rolex Middle Sea Race (RMSR) is a fixture in the season, ranking alongside the Rolex Fastnet, Rolex Sydney–Hobart and Newport-Bermuda as a “must do” race.

“For yet another year, the Rolex Middle Sea Race has grown in the number of boats that have committed to compete in this ever popular offshore race,” said Godwin Zammit, Commodore of the Royal Malta Yacht Club. “There are a number of factors which contribute to the increase in participation. Naturally, the scenic yet challenging course plays a very important role, however one must mention the renowned hospitality that our Club offers its guests, which is spoken of highly by participants, often leading competitors to sign up simply through word of mouth recommendations. Last, but not least, is our strong connection with other Clubs and our affiliation with the Royal Ocean Racing Club.”

The event’s fascination is largely drawn from its alluring, 608-nautical-mile racecourse – a rigorous anti-clockwise loop around Sicily which introduces numerous “corners” that present changing and complex meteorological shifts. The route includes the deep azure waters around Sicily including the Aeolian and Egadi Islands, as well as Pantelleria and Lampedusa. One of the most stunning vistas is Stromboli, the active volcano which is a course mark.

Challenging, enchanting and historic, the Rolex Middle Sea Race starts in Malta’s spectacular Grand Harbour at 11am on the 18 October.
“Security and safety of both racing teams and spectators has always been imperative for us and a number of procedures have been put in place. We have worked closely with the Armed Forces of Malta and Transport Malta to ensure that only authorised vessels authorised by the Race Committee will be allowed into the Grand Harbour. Both entities will be present on the day to ensure that all procedures are strictly adhered to on the day”, said Peter Dimech, Race Committee Chair and Principle Race Officer.

Supported by Rolex since 2002, the race commences and finishes in Malta. Winners will be announced throughout the week with an award ceremony wrapping up the week-long event on 25 October.

The Royal Malta Yacht Club thanks the general public for their co-operation in ensuring that all safety instructions issued by the relevant Authorities are adhered to, in order to ensure the safety of all concerned. Moreover, boats in the vicinity of the race courses are advised to navigate with caution and to keep a sharp lookout.

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