Archive | Volvo Ocean Race

Iker Martínez to miss Leg3, Rafa joins the MAPFRE crew

Posted on 18 December 2014 by Ivan Bidzilya

[Source: MAPFRE Team] After four intense days in Abu Dhabi, the shore team works hard to have the “MAPFRE” ready for the third leg of the Volvo Ocean Race, which begins next January 3rd.

“It’s been a few busy days since the arrival,” said Iker Martínez today. “We’ve been all into analysis the different situations and problems experienced. Almost all the crew of the other teams had already gone to rest but we decided to continue working to use every minute of time available to improve the boat.”

“This second leg was very interesting for us, we have improved a lot and certainly after what we have discussed in recent days, there will be another leap in quality for third leg,” added Martinez. “I’m happy with everybody’s effort and I think now we can consider podium for the next legs.”

Iker Martínez has confirmed today that as planned Xabi Fernández will take command of the “MAPFRE” on stage between Abu Dhabi and Sanya (China). “When we started the project we were aware that I had other commitments already made to the Olympic campaign, so I can not be on board in the next leg.” Xabi Fernandez will therefore step in as a “MAPFRE” skipper both at the next in-port race in Abu Dhabi, which will be sailde on 2nd of January, as well as in the 4670 miles leg between the emirate and China.

Also, it is confirmed that Rafa Trujillo will joind the crew for the 3rd leg. Trujillo, who is already in Abu Dhabi, has been very happy to be on board in the next stage: “From the beginning of the project I was at the core of the crew, but I had to devote myself to already made commitments but now finally I can join the team.”

“I think I can bring physical strength after two very hard stages and good Andalusian humor,” add fanous Spanish Finn sailor.

MAPFRE crew for leg 3:
Xabi Fernández, skipper
Jean-Luc Nélias, navigator
André Fonseca, watch captain
Robert Greenhalgh, watch captain
Rafael Trujillo, trimmer/helmsman
Anthony Marchand, trimmer/helmsman
Carlos Hernández, trimmer/bow
Antonio “Ñeti” Cuervas-Mons, bow
Francisco Vignale, on-board reporter

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Team Vestas back on the Cargados Carajos

Posted on 18 December 2014 by Ivan Bidzilya

[Source: Volvo Ocean Race] Neil Cox has been Chris Nicholson’s shore manager for two Volvo Ocean Races before they entered their third one together with Team Vestas Wind. But the Aussie expert had never, ever been in the situation he is in now – heading to a remote Indian Ocean reef to recover the blue Volvo Ocean 65 after it ran aground in the middle of the second leg, on November 29.

“The ultimate plan, the gold-medal prize we’re reaching for, is to get the boat buoyant enough to float it across the lagoon to get it into more protected water,” explains Neil, or Coxy, as everybody calls him. “That would stop it disintegrating out on the reef, and at the same time, once we get to the other side of the reef, it gives us the chance to set it up in a controlled fashion to either be able to tow the boat back to Mauritius, or there is a Maersk Line ship coming on Monday and we’re hoping to use their derrick to get it on the ship.”

“The race has taken me through some pretty bizarre scenarios, but I would say that this one is pretty unique.”

Chris, the skipper, joined him in Mauritius yesterday evening. They’ve set up the recovery operation in Port Louis, liaising with local resources, chartering a boat they’ll use as a mother ship, getting all the necessary tools through customs and the permits to go back to the Saint Brandon archipelago.

In the meantime, the Île du Sud inhabitants have maintained a watch on the boat, and sent some photos with the supply boat two days ago.

It appears that the boat hasn’t moved much. Coxy and Chris are now sailing to the location along with their shore crew Tom Kiff plus two local guys, five recovery people from Durban, South Africa, and a cameraman.

“The rest of the team offered to come and help,” adds Coxy, “but there is nothing out there so you cannot take a whole work force with you because you cannot provide enough water or power for everyone.“We’ll base ourselves on this mother ship, on the inside of the lagoon. It’s on the leeward side of the reef and two and half miles away from the boat. The ship has the facilities for us to live onboard, because there is no way for us to stay on the island. We’ve also chartered local fishing boats to cross the lagoon everyday.

“It’s a case of how structurally sound the boat is, and what we can utilise to get it buoyant again. And anything that floats, float tanks, buoyancy bags, you name it, is coming out with us.”

Coxy, Chris and Team Vestas Wind have a plan, and a strong will to get the boat off the reef. But there are a lot of difficult factors to take into account. “We want to bring as much of the boat back as possible,” asserts Coxy.

“If anything can be recycled or used for a potential new boat, we have to do everything in our power to make that happen. “The reality is, it’s a very dangerous workplace we’re going to. It doesn’t have all the nice things we have in the stopovers… it’s in the middle of the ocean. We’re on our own. And, while I’d avoid the cheap shark headlines, yes, there is a lot more activity on the reef at nighttime.”

“We’ll get there by sunrise tomorrow. We’ll go straight to the boat after that.”

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It’s All Over, But Only Briefly

Posted on 16 December 2014 by Ivan Bidzilya

[Source: B&G] Leg 2 is finished, but the overall race has never looked more open. After almost 12,000 miles of ocean racing, we have a three-way tie for the overall lead. Team Brunel and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing are at the top of the leaderboard with a first and a third each. This just outdoes Dongfeng Race Team’s two second places, thanks to a tie-breaker that counts the number of leg victories.

Never mind the spectacularly tight leaderboard, it was also a quite spectacular finish – with Dongfeng Race Team overtaking Team Brunel at the final headland, only to get the lead back a couple of hours from the finish. After fighting their way back into contention, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing had to console themselves with a third place.

Closing on the Gulf

Pic1. (c) Volvo Ocean Race

Pic1. (c) Volvo Ocean Race

We left the fleet closing on the Gulf of Oman (Pic 1), with Team Brunel enjoying an 11 mile advantage over Dongfeng Race Team, who in turn had a 30 mile lead over Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing. Just under 300 miles behind this group Team Alvimedica were out of contention for the podium, but had their own battle to fend off a charging MAPFRE. The Spanish were in search of redemption after that disastrous swing to the east ahead of the Doldrums that we reviewed in last week’s blog.

The forecast anticipated that the wind would lighten, and then shift into the north-west, forcing the leaders into a tricky light air beat up the Gulf of Oman to the Strait of Hormuz. Relief would eventually arrive in the shape of a freshening northerly that would veer to the north-east.

Climb Aboard the Rollercoaster

Pic2. (c) Volvo Ocean Race

Pic2. (c) Volvo Ocean Race

We can see how this situation has started to develop in Pic 2, from 00:30 on the 11th December (all times UTC). The three leaders have all hit the big wind shift to the north-west off the coast of Oman and tacked to port. The lighter conditions have also compressed the fleet, with the mileage gaps halving – although as they are now all beating upwind in light air, those distances would still represent a significant amount of time.

Pic3. (c) Volvo Ocean Race

Pic3. (c) Volvo Ocean Race

If we move on 12 hours to Pic 3 at 13:00 on the 11th, we can see that the locals, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing have gone back into the coast, and made some great gains. It was Adil Khalid that called it, according to onboard reporter Matt Knighton; “He predicted that at 0900 we would get the sea breeze as we drew closer to shore. Sure enough, we could’ve set our watches to it. It was much more than anticipated – nine knots. You always assume it’s just a quick gust that soon will die out. This one held for the next 11 hours.” It was a very profitable 11 hours for Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, closing them to within eight miles of the leading pair.

The gaps continued to tighten throughout the rest of the day, as the sailing remained relatively straightforward and straight-line in the north-easterly thermal wind. It was early in the morning on the 12th when it started to get funky again, with a shift back to the north-west, and back to upwind sailing.

Into the Strait of Hormuz

Pic4. (c) Volvo Ocean Race

Pic4. (c) Volvo Ocean Race

If we look at Pic 4 from midday on the 12th December, we can see that once it got shifty, Team Brunel maintained a pretty tight cover on Dongfeng Race Team. Both boats stepped out a bit from Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, whose earlier gains on the coast converted back to a loss when the wind shift came through. It will always favour the leaders when the wind shifts and turns a reach into an upwind leg, as they will have spent more time on that leg going straight, without tacking.

The navigators on the two lead boats then took it on big time – going through the passage between an offshore island and the mainland at the Musandam Peninsula – in light air and against the current. It didn’t pay, and it also seems to have cost Team Brunel the lead.

Pic5. (c) Volvo Ocean Race

Pic5. (c) Volvo Ocean Race

In Pic 5 from 17:50 on the 12th December, we can see that Dongfeng Race Team have led Team Brunel away from the headland, sneaking past on the outside. The wind shifted through almost 180 degrees and got very light in this period. It ended up coming from the east, leaving them both going downwind and making precious little progress. The Chinese were able to consolidate their advantage over Team Brunel to move out to a 0.7 mile lead, but meanwhile…

The Pendulum Swings…

This was the moment when the pendulum swung back to Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing. When the leaders hit this hole, skipper Ian Walker saw the opportunity ahead. They went right around the outside of the island to make sure that they stayed in the better breeze, and by the time they got around the corner, Abi Dhabi Ocean Racing were just four miles behind and right back in the game.

Report 4 - #6

Pic6. (c) Volvo Ocean Race

When the wind filled in, it came from the north-east and turned the final home stretch into a downwind gybe-fest until about 00:40 on 13th December – Pic 6. This was the moment when the wind went far enough to the east to finally enable them to point at the finish. Just looking at that picture, you can almost feel the palpable sense of relief aboard the two lead boats, as Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s challenge had faded in the shifting winds of Arabia, and they slid back to eight miles off the pace.

And Then There Were Two

Pic8. (c) Volvo Ocean Race

Pic7. (c) Volvo Ocean Race

Dongfeng Race Team now just had to fight it out with Team Brunel. The Chinese had played the shifts very nicely to extend to a 1.7 mile advantage, and that should have been enough. But once they were back to sailing in the same piece of water in a straight line, Team Brunel had a clear edge. The Dutch went past the Chinese to recover their lead at about 05:30 on the morning of the 13th December – Pic 7.

Dongfeng Race Team’s skipper, Charles Caudrelier was blaming it on boat speed: “Brunel have been much faster than us for a few days and we don’t know why. We’re a bit disappointed because we did a good job to pass them, but they keep passing us. You have to do well, but you also have to be fast. If you’re not fast, it’s difficult to win a leg.”

Bouwe Bekking and his Dutch crew finished a couple of hours later, having gained a 16 minute lead over Dongfeng Race Team, with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing reaching their home port in third place, just short of two and a half hours later.

MAPFRE Redeemed

Pic8. (c) Volvo Ocean Race

Pic8. (c) Volvo Ocean Race

Behind them, MAPFRE had drawn level with Team Alvimedica as they entered the Gulf, and the pair raced side by side until early in the morning of the 13th December. In Pic 8 from 02:30 on the 13th December, you can see both boats had been happily reaching towards the Musandam Peninsula in a light easterly breeze. Then it started to shift into the south-east, and they both gybed off the lifting wind shift. Team Alvimedica gybed back as the wind flicked back to the east – that was their big mistake.

Pic9. (c) Volvo Ocean Race

Pic9. (c) Volvo Ocean Race

If we have a look at Pic 9, two hours later at 04:30 on the 13th December, we can see that while Team Alvimedica prevaricated, MAPFRE committed to the new south-easterly and stretched towards the coastline. The commitment earned them a lead of four miles. They continued to extend from there and eventually left Team Alvimedica in their wake to get fourth by a solid ten hours – of course there is still the small matter of a possible request for redress for standing by Team Vestas Wind and that may change what are currently, provisional results. Team SCA came home in sixth about nine hours later to conclude Leg 2.

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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 Alvimedica Fights to Finish in Epic Battle to Abu Dhabi

Posted on 15 December 2014 by Ivan Bidzilya

[Source: Team Alvimedica] After a head-to-head battle in the final stretch of a dramatic Leg 2 to Abu Dhabi, tricky conditions in the Gulf of Oman and Straits of Hormuz saw the narrow lead over Spanish rival Mapfre evaporate only 37 hours before the finish line.

The fight to the finish was an impressive comeback for skipper Charlie Enright and the young crew who restarted at the back of the fleet after stopping to assist in the rescue of Team Vestas Wind two weeks ago.

Team Alvimedica crossed the Abu Dhabi finish line today in fifth place at 5:29 pm local time (1:29 pm UTC), completing the 6,125-nautical-mile leg in 24 days, 11 hours, 29 minutes and 23 seconds. They have scored 10 points through the first two legs of the race and hold fourth place overall, 6 points behind the leading trio.

“This leg was full of ups and downs,” Enright said at the dock this evening. “We had moments of brilliance and some moments we’d like back, and that doesn’t even count the time we spent with Vestas in Mauritius. Lots to reflect on, lots to improve on, lots to be proud of. We will enjoy the down time, but we can’t wait for Leg 3 to get under way.”

The seven-boat Volvo Ocean Race fleet set out from Cape Town, South Africa, on November 19 in a wild start that served up a range of conditions with up to 30-knot gusts before the fleet even left Table Bay. The leg started robustly for Team Alvimedica, as the crew led the fleet for the first two days while racing at speeds in excess of 20 knots.
The crew stayed in touch with the lead over the next week and even reassumed it on November 27. But on November 29 Team Alvimedica stopped sailing to assist Team Vestas Wind. The team will ask the International Jury for redress on the matter.

“We made the ‘decision’ to go and stand by but there really wasn’t much of a decision to make, it was the right thing to do,” Enright said. “That changed the whole leg for us, including our perspective.”

Team Alvimedica restarted the race on Sunday, November 30, once they were assured that the Vestas crew was safely evacuated from the reef. Restarting at the back of the fleet, the team steadily clawed their way back through the second half of the fleet.

The final 500 miles to Abu Dhabi provided an especially challenging stretch of sailing. Leading Mapfre by a narrow margin, the teams entered the Gulf of Oman and a neck and neck battle for fourth place ensued. After five days of fending off Mapfre, the Spanish snatched the lead only 200 miles from the finish.

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MAPFRE finishes leg2

Posted on 14 December 2014 by Ivan Bidzilya

[Source:MAPFRE Team] Skipper Iker Martínez has said “We’re more than happy, the improvement since Leg 1 is huge, I’m proud of everyone doing a very good job. But at the same time we were leading at some point. But the big picture is that fourth is very good, the three boats at the front did a fantastic leg. We’re happy, we need to keep doing like this!”

“For us it was very important (to beat “Alvimedica”). We’ve been fighting with the first three guys, then we led when we took an option to go east, which didn’t work. But then, when we found ourselves in the middle of the fleet, we had to fight with them.”

“It’s a place we deserve, we have a job list in Abu Dhabi, and we’ll do better in the next leg.”

About the decision of going to to the East, Iker has pointed out that “we’ve positions every six hours onboard, and we didn’t want to create such a big split east. Jean-Luc and myself took that decision, it was a risk, but the whole crew was supportive, even when it didn’t go well.”

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Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing comes home!

Posted on 13 December 2014 by Ivan Bidzilya

[Source: Volvo Ocean Race] Taking third in the Emirati city, the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing sailors have come home. It may not the result they were hoping for, but they’re happy nonetheless. It has been a long and tricky leg, they’ve made it to Abu Dhabi safely and on the podium, and their local sailor Adil Khalid is frantically waving the United Arab Emirates flag.

“It’s a proud moment for us – we’re making our families proud and making our country proud,” he says. “It was such an amazing leg, sailing in the Indian Ocean, in the Gulf… You cannot describe these things.” In fact, it is difficult to describe this leg, all the way from Cape Town to the Emirates. “A pretty tough one really, much more of a mystery than the first leg,” confirms navigator Simon Fisher, looking slightly disappointed, but very relieved.

December 13,2014. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing,third team to arrive to Abu Dhabi after Leg 2 from Cape Town.  Ainhoa Sanchez/Volvo Ocean Race

December 13,2014. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing,third team to arrive to Abu Dhabi after Leg 2 from Cape Town. Ainhoa Sanchez/Volvo Ocean Race

“We were trying to figure things out, and we’re still happy than we made most of the decisions right. It wasn’t perfect because we’re coming in third and not first, but we’re happy.” It was definitely a happy team who crossed the line at 11:08:15 UTC before docking in.

The British skipper did want more, but it hasn’t been a smooth leg for the Azzam crew. They sailed pretty much on their own and didn’t manage to overtake Team Brunel and Dongfeng Race Team in the final days, despite a close fight. They even caught a crab pot on the keel today, only couple of miles from the finish line.

“I’ve got mixed feelings really,” adds Ian. “We wanted to win this leg. Two days ago, we were ahead of Dongfeng, and we were back into it last night again but we’ve never been close enough to make it. “But look, we’re in third place, people are in good shape, the boat is in one piece. This is a very long race. We’ve had two great results, first and third, and we’ll just keep chipping away.” Fresh dates are presented to them, and mint tea too. He smiles. “We’re very pleased, and looking forward to a fantastic three weeks.”

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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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