Archive | Volvo Ocean Race

‘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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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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Team SCA denied permission for sail change

Posted on 17 April 2015 by Reporter

[Source: Team SCA] The International Jury has denied Team SCA’s request to replace their Race FRO with their pre-race FRO after their sail was badly damaged during a crash gybe on Leg Five from Auckland to Itajai. However, Sam Davies and her crew are keen to take the experience gained from Leg 5 into the 5010-mile leg to Newport, USA, which is due to start on Sunday.

During the incident on Day 7 of Leg 5, the boat broached and the FRO tore down the luff and horizontally across the sail to the leech causing the boat to crash gybe. The majority of the sail ended up in the water where it continued to flog, while the crew recovered from the broach and then recovered the sail.

In their submission to the International Jury, the team stated that they considered that the incident was a racing incident, and one that occurs in trans-ocean races. Indeed two other boats in the fleet also suffered similar wipeouts.

A report from the Volvo Ocean Race Boatyard Sail Loft deemed that the damaged sail was unusable. It also questioned the structural integrity. The report stated that ‘given the size of the tear and the area of damaged cloth it is not possible to repair SCA’s FRO to a standard where it would be suitable for the remaining legs of the Race’ and concluded that it was ‘not repairable for the purpose of being used for further racing.’

Sam Davies, Team SCA skipper, comments: “We are of course incredibly disappointed with the ruling. Not being able to use the FRO for two thirds of Leg 5 had a major impact on our performance. We will now look to do everything in our power to try to make this sail as usable and as safe as possible as, if this sail breaks again, there is potential for further damage to the boat and crew. But the reality is that there will always be a huge risk factor associated with the sail especially as we still have some 10,000 miles of racing left.”

Sails have been a subject of much discussion across the fleet since the start of the race and Team SCA raised its concerns on the limited sail numbers when the rule was first published. Race rules allow each team to have only eight sails onboard with four as back-up, which is one of the smallest inventories that this Race has seen.

With the sailing making team hard a work the rest of crew is now making their final preparations ahead of the Leg Start on Sunday. As part of the crew rotation Justine Mettraux and Sally Barkow rejoin the team for this leg, replacing Sara Hastreiter and Elodie Mettraux who sit this leg out. Corinna Halloran will be the OnBoard Reporter.

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The Spanish team MAPFRE given a two-point penalty

Posted on 17 April 2015 by Reporter

[Source: Volvo Ocean Race] The Spanish team MAPFRE were given a two-point penalty on Thursday by the ISAF-appointed independent jury for rules breaches during Leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race. In separate decisions, the jury made key rulings about the use of replacement sails for three teams.

After hearing evidence from Race Management and the team on Wednesday, the jury, headed by Bernard Bonneau, ruled that the Spanish team had applied repairs and alterations on the hull and on an outrigger without informing the Volvo Ocean 65 Class Authority (VCA) and therefore broke the Volvo Ocean 65 class rules as well as the race rules. The Volvo Ocean 65 class rules require that if a team considers that a repair is necessary, it shall inform the VCA immediately.

Bonneau added that the five-strong jury had decided that the work was not done with the purpose of improving the performance of the Spanish team during Leg 5 and their second place in the stage stands. The ruling, however, means that their overall points total is now 20 after five legs and they thus drop from fourth to fifth in the standings. The team had earlier argued in the hearing through their rules advisor, Luis Sáenz Mariscal, that in both cases with their bow and outrigger, skipper Iker Martínez had made the reinforcements because of fears that both were damaged.

Sáenz Mariscal added that the outrigger had broken on previous occasions in the race and the crew had heard a bang from the bow and feared it was delaminating. He said that in Southern Ocean conditions, Martínez feared that the boat and crew were in danger if the measures were not taken. He said the crew had not informed the VCA, but had openly shared video content showing repairs to Race Control in Alicante, Spain.

In a separate decision by the ISAF Jury, Dongfeng Race Team was given permission to replace their damaged race mainsail with their pre-race mainsail for the forthcoming Team Vestas Wnd Itajaí In-Port Race as well as Leg 6, which starts on Sunday (April 19). Caudrelier explained they had no option but to cut the mainsail to prevent further damage, potentially endangering the crew.

However, similar applications from Team SCA, to replace their fractional code zero sail, and Team Vestas Wind to replace their J3 when they return to the race following their grounding on a reef in Leg 2, were denied.

Team SCA’s sail was unusable during the stage after it was badly damaged during a Chinese gybe. It has since been repaired but according to skipper Sam Davies, may tear again once the boat returns to sea on Leg 6 from Sunday.
The race rules specify that if a boat damages beyond repair or loses a sail and does not have a spare race sail of the same code, it may apply in writing to the VCA and to the international jury for permission to use her pre-race sail of the same code.

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A state of play

Posted on 15 April 2015 by Reporter

[Source: Team Vestas Wind] This week, Team Vestas Wind’s Neil Cox updates on the progress from Persico Marine as work continues on team’s VO65 ahead of Team Vestas expected return to the Race in Lisbon. There’s still a lot to do, but things are moving quickly and in the right direction, as Coxy explains:

So the calendar shows us now that we are just under six weeks from needing to be in a position to leave the shed at Persico and load onto the truck for the journey to Lisbon.

It’s a little unnerving to think about this right now knowing what lies before us, but at the same time we have been making solid progress the whole way through the rebuild, and we are doing all we can to put things in place to reduce the risk of what could become problematic over the next six weeks.

The deck is on, the boat is out of the mould, all the primary structure is in the boat and a large percentage of the internal secondary structure and detailing is underway and we are closing in on wanting to have this all finalised before late in the month.

The hull surface has come out of the mould nicely and we have the paint team starting on all the surface prep work here, filling in any pin holes before the application of primer/undercoat, which, all being well, can happen by about the 16th of this month.

Before we get into all the systems install operation, we want to get the inside of the boat closed down in the sense that all composite work is complete and we have all the rule-compliant sealer coat and deck head vinyls in place.

With this done, we want to offer the teams from Diverse, Navtec, Livewire, Cariboni (working on internal components such as the electronics and hydraulics) as much uninterrupted runway through the boat as possible. Admittedly there will still be an exterior paint work program going on in parallel but they are getting the feeling they will be owning the night shift!

We are still receiving required equipment daily by the pallet load and have had the support of both Green Marine and VOR shared services helping with the transfer of both information and parts.

The race measurer, James Dadd, has been on site with us on multiple occasions over the last month as things narrow down to the pointy end of the schedule, and we are looking into dates that can work for getting some of the more critical final measurements taken before departure.

All the guys on the floor are doing an amazing job for us and the support we get from all the suppliers and Persico management has been fantastic.

Like all intense build projects, you can see the signs of wear on the guys but to their credit they have not yet shown any sign of things being in the “too hard” basket, but the reality is we are going to have some challenging days in front of us to hold this all together as required, but we have a pretty determined group.

Hopefully, in the not too distant future, the elements of the rule-permitted work that we can take on as a team can get under way, and from here we can begin the reassembly of all the deck hardware and begin to feel that our boat is starting to look like Vestas Wind again.

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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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High stakes

Posted on 10 April 2015 by Reporter

[Source: Volvo Ocean Race] Two days after Leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race was completed with Team SCA’s arrival, Dongfeng Race Team were in a desperate battle of their own on Thursday to transport their stricken boat to Itajaí for the fitting of a new mast.

The Chinese team were forced to retire from the event’s toughest leg on April 1 after their mast fractured in the Southern Ocean, 20 nm from Cape Horn. They found refuge in Ushuaia, Argentina, and a team of shore crew members plus Chinese sailors, Wolf (Yang Jiru) and Black (Liu Xue), are now sailing Dongfeng under motor and sail to Itajaí. The entire project is geared around having a fully fixed-up boat ready for the Leg 6 departure for Newport, Rhode Island, on April 19. But what if they don’t achieve that? “If we don’t make it? It will be the end of our project as we know it,” said Team Director, Bruno Dubois.

The best-case arrival time for the boat in Itajaí, according to a team statement issued on Thursday, is Monday, April 13. The crew is currently 1,000nm from their destination in the south-east of Brazil.

Meanwhile, a separate journey is underway with the mast being flown from Dubai, via Amsterdam, to São Paulo, Brazil. From there, it will be driven to Itajaí once it has cleared customs. The arrival time for the mast – with a ‘best case’ scenario, say the team – is also Monday.

Dongfeng Race Team’s statement continued: “However, that will just be the beginning of our race against time. “Once we have the boat and the mast, there is the work that normally takes a week to do in half that time – to prepare the boat itself after the tough leg from Auckland, and to prepare, set up and tune the new mast and rigging. Now calculate the odds of everything running smoothly. As it stands, we have no idea if the truckers will be willing to drive over the weekend. So best case scenario, the rig and the boat both arrive in Itajaí on Monday as planned. Otherwise, the rig arrives two days later and we struggle to make the Team Vestas Wind Itajaí In-Port Race (Saturday, April 18).”

The clock continues to tick, but shore crew member, Henry Woodhouse, who is currently helping sail the boat through the south Atlantic to Itajaí, remains bullish.

“Look out Brazil, here we come,” he wrote in a blog from the boat on Wednesday evening. “We may be late arriving, but we will be on that start line for Leg 6 ready to return with a vengeance.”

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