Volvo Ocean Race: Decision day – is west the best?
Monday, November 6, 2017 5:32 PM
After a fast and furious opening to Leg 2 of the Volvo Ocean Race, the fleet is settling into a groove on Monday, with navigators and skippers already facing the first of many critical decisions on this race from Lisbon to Cape Town.
Watch highlights from the windy start of Leg 2
Today will give us the first indication as to how far west the teams want to set up for their approach to the doldrums.
“We’re planning another gybe to the west to take advantage of the shifts,” explained Juan Vila, the navigator on MAPFRE this morning with his boat charging south.
And soon enough, the Spanish team made the right turn and as of 13:00 was the second furthest to the west. Only Dongfeng had hit the west more aggressively.
“There’s a massive, multi-hundred mile long wind shadow behind Madeira so we don’t want to end up downwind of it," explains Turn the Tide on Plastic skipper Dee Caffari.
"And if we go further south, towards the Canary Islands, there’s a potential low pressure system that could be trouble. All routing has us headed west of Madeira.”
Earlier today, Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag skipper David Witt and navigator Steve Hayles appeared to have a contrary view, charging to the south and positioned as the eastern most boat in the fleet. But shortly after the 13:00 UTC position report, they too gybed, and are still set up to pass - just - north of Madeira.
The boats are sailing into familiar territory as Porto Santo, one of the Madeira Islands, was a mark of the course on Leg 1. But on this leg, the teams can leave the island group to either side. They should pass the islands this evening UTC.
“We’re keeping our options open,” said Simon Fisher, navigator for Vestas 11th Hour Racing. “We saw MAPFRE a little earlier and Dongfeng as well and we know they appear to be going west… Big picture, the idea is to get west being mindful that it is a 20-day leg, and we want to keep tabs on the fleet so some of this is fleet management as well as weather, so we’ll be watching the next few skeds closely.”
Today's tactical game follows a relentless opening day of racing, with winds over 30-knots on the first night at sea, and a heavy ocean swell of 4-metres.
Sam Greenfield, reporting from Turn the Tide on Plastic filed this report early in night one:
"Saw some crazy things today. A wave threw Bianca off the stack and into the cockpit while she was clipped in. So much water that her PFD inflated. There she was trapped on her back in the cockpit, stuck by her tether taking hundreds of gallons of water to the face. It was scary to watch. Liz got to her quickly and sorted her out.
"I don't know how they do it on deck in these conditions. When I got down after shooting my mouth was full of salt and my hands were shaking too much to type. I don't have words to describe the caliber of (people) I'm surrounded by on this boat."
Watch the water over the deck on Turn the Tide on Plastic
Watch a wipeout and recovery on board Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag
At this point in Leg 2, it is important to understand the tracker rankings do not account for tactical positioning. Instead, the tracker rewards southerly progress towards Cape Town. Boats positioned further south (and east), will be ranked higher, even if the tactical situation favours the west.
Leg 2 – Position Report – Monday 6 November (Day 2) – 13:00 UTC
1. Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag -- distance to finish – 4,723.5 nautical miles
2. team AkzoNobel +5.4
3. Vestas 11th Hour Racing +14.1
4. Turn the Tide on Plastic +14.9
5. Team Brunel +27.7nm
6. MAPFRE + 35.2nm
7. Dongfeng Race Team +51.2