As temperatures rise and strong winds give way to localised storm activity on the approach to the Doldrums, the Volvo Ocean Race fleet is picking its way through the cloud systems, attempting to connect the dots, joining the wind pressure cells.
It’s exhausting work for navigators and skippers in terms of decision-making, and for the crew moving the stack of sails on each gybe. At least some if not all of the teams have elected to ‘split the stack’, piling half the weight on each side of the boat, sacrificing righting moment for the ability to quickly gybe on each wind shift.
In what has become a familiar refrain from several teams, gains and losses are coming quickly, with spirits rising and falling just as fast.
“Yesterday, we had AkzoNobel 12 miles behind us, and we saw them catch a cloud and in two hours we lost like 20 miles, it’s crazy,” said Dongfeng skipper Charles Caudrelier.
His team has gybed more than any other, in an effort to stay on the shifts and retain their grip on the lead.
Blair Tuke on MAPFRE, sailing neck and neck with team AkzoNobel for much of the morning gives his perspective on the changing fortunes: “The last 24 hours have been pretty bad for us, we’ve lost to Dongfeng and Vestas 11th Hour Racing. But then this morning we gained on them quickly and suddenly they’re right here in sight.”
Five-time Volvo Ocean Race veteran Tony Mutter, on Vestas 11th Hour Racing, describes the dilemma facing his team as they try to position themselves best for the weather and tactically around the other teams challenging for the lead: “At the moment we are trying to get around this light air patch that is coming out off the coast of Africa. There’s two ways… we can go west, or we can race south as fast as possible. Currently we’re heading south. We have Dongfeng directly ahead of us and then we have MAPFRE and AkzoNobel going west right now. It’s a bit of a split, so it’s a hard one. With the wind direction, we can‘t really go west, so we have to let it play out… It’s really hard…”
While the clouds are creating a nightmare scenario for the navigators, they are also making for some incredible photo opportunities. The view from on board Dongfeng last night was especially poignant.
Leg 2 – Position Report – Thursday 9 November (Day 5) – 13:00 UTC
- Dongfeng Race Team — distance to finish – 4,357.9 nautical miles
- Vestas 11th Hour Racing +5.5
- team AkzoNobel +10.1
- MAPFRE +10.2
- Team Brunel +12.7
- Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag +48.3
- Turn the Tide on Plastic +79.7
It is a little known fact that Port Elizabeth has been approached TWICE to bid on becoming a stopover for the Volvo Ocean Race – the first attempt was stopped by our local Port Authorities and we await the outcome of the second. The home of Volvo Cars is Gothenburg – the second-largest city in Sweden which is twinned with Nelson Mandela Bay and which has provided incredible support and promotion for our Metropole. MyPE is running a series of articles about the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race to 1. Acknowledge and thank Gothenburg for their support, 2. Showcase a sport that Alan Straton is passionate about, 3. Demonstrate to citizens of Port Elizabeth just how much exposure a city like Cape Town receives from the VOR and 4. As a gentle reminder to the TNPA and our city of the great value that such an event can bring to our city. The start city of the VOR – Alicante, Spain – estimates the economic value of each leg to be R960 Million.