Volvo Ocean Race: Pedal to the metal

By | May 4, 2018

Sam Greenfield/Volvo Ocean Race

The Volvo Ocean Race crews were putting the pedal to the metal as they enjoyed fast sailing conditions in the northern hemisphere trade winds.

Dutch-flagged Team Brunel continued to lead the charge, but with such little difference between the teams at this stage of the leg, gains are won and lost by the smallest of changes – a slight tweak to a sail or a tiny alteration to the angle sailed.

“When the fleet is as closely matched as this one is and everyone is in the same conditions we all race at speeds similar, only separated by a decimal place or two of boat speed,” says Plastic skipper Dee Caffari. “This means that if you make a change it will ultimately cost you in that next position report.

“If you make two changes then it will really show. With each position report we had been clawing back the 0.3 or 0.4 of boat speed to match or go faster than those around us, and then we made two sail changes within one position report and that cost us dearly.”

With all seven teams now enjoying similar windspeeds of between 18 and 20 knots, the time for strategy is over for the moment, replaced by a quest for all-out straight-line speed.

On the Spanish boat MAPFRE, the crew continue to deal with power issues that are preventing them from operating their swinging keel to full effect.

“The biggest problems we have with the keel are two,” says skipper Xabi Fernández. “One is it is the speed, since it is slower compared to when the engine is running, and the second is we do not know exactly where the keel is.

“When you try to sail as best as possible, it is very important to know where the keel is at all times and use it to trim as you do with a sail or any other part of the boat.

“Apart from all that, in each manoeuvre at least one person has to be down below to move the keel manually since no command works from deck.

“Obviously this does not help and it is very possible that if the fleet compresses in the end it can play a bit against us but once again it is what we have.

“I think that after the electrical problem we had, we cannot complain about being able to sail the boat one hundred per cent.”

Leg 8 – Position Report (19:00 UTC)
1. Team Brunel (NED), Bouwe Bekking (NED), 1754.5 nm DTF
2. Dongfeng Race Team (CHN), Charles Caudrelier (FRA), 16.1 nm DTL
3. Turn the Tide on Plastic (POR), Dee Caffari (GBR), 30.5 nm DTL
4. Vestas 11th Hour Racing (DEN/USA), Charlie Enright (USA), 33.0 nm DTL
5. MAPFRE (ESP), Xabi Fernández (ESP), 61.8 nm DTL
6. Team AkzoNobel (NED), Simeon Tienpont (NED), 80.6 nm DTL
7. Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag (HKG), David Witt (AUS), 225.5 nm DTL
DTF – Distance to Finish; DTL – Distance to Lead

COURSE: Starting on April 22, Leg 8 takes the teams from Itajaí, Brazil to Newport, USA. Race organizers choose to estimate the tactical distance for each leg rather than list the actual distance, an unusual decision that’s revealed once the race starts and the tracker lists the actual distance to finish. The organizers say Leg 8 is 5700 nm whereas the actual distance from the tracker is 5027 nm.

Source: Volvo Ocean Race