Coming Into Focus: The Agony and the Ecstasy of Leg 2

Right up to the start in Cape Town on November 19, the pundits were saying the second leg of the Volvo Ocean Race, to Abu Dhabi, was going to be an unpredictable one, and boy were they right!
Author:
Publish date:
Updated on
 Team Brunel heads for the finish with Dongfeng less than a mile astern. Photo courtesy of Stefan Coppers/Team Brunel

Team Brunel heads for the finish with Dongfeng less than a mile astern. Photo courtesy of Stefan Coppers/Team Brunel

Right up to the start in Cape Town on November 19, the pundits were saying the second leg of the Volvo Ocean Race, to Abu Dhabi, was going to be an unpredictable one, and boy were they right!

Beyond the obvious—Team Vestas grounding on a clearly marked reef a couple of hundred miles off Mauritius—much of the leg consisted of sweating it out and chasing puffs for hundreds of miles under the equatorial sun through glassy, bathtub-warm water. It would be hard to imagine a greater contrast to the “good-old days” of the Whitbread, when the second leg was a full-on drag race through the Southern Ocean from Cape Town to Australia or New Zealand. The problem then was typically too much wind, the only thing you had to worry about running into was an iceberg (or maybe an errant whale) and it was hypothermia you had to dress for, not jock itch.

Team Vestas Grounding through the Eyes of the Boat’s Onboard Reporter



Brian Carlin, the onboard media crew for Team Vestas, talks about what it was like when his Volo Ocean 65 drove up on a remote reef in the Indian Ocean.

Nonetheless, for superlative seamanship, it would once again be hard to top that displayed by the teams competing in the 2014-15 VOR. As any racing sailing will tell you, light-air racing can be just as tough, if not tougher, than racing in a blow, with big gains and losses sometimes taking place in the blink of an eye. And for the VOR fleet, the entire second half of the 5,185 mile leg consisted of a series of cat-and-mouse duels as the six remaining boats wended their way through and around various calms and the treacherous Strait of Hormuz.

In the end, it was Dutch-flagged Team Brunel edging out China’s Dongfeng Race Team by a paltry 12 minutes for the win, with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing filling out the podium spots less than three hours later. In fact, it was only when the two lead boats were within sight of the finish that Team Brunel finally pulled ahead for good with the help of a fortuitous puff of wind. "It is a good feeling," Team Brunel skipper Bouwe Bekking said afterward. "I’ve always said, it’s better to be lucky than good, but we’ve been good this leg as well, so it’s so nice to win this one, because it could have been an easy leg to finish last…. We [also] sailed the boat much better than in the first leg. So that’s the nicest feeling of all.

 Team Alvimedica sails the last couple of miles to the finish at sundown. Photo courtesy of Francois Nel/VOR

Team Alvimedica sails the last couple of miles to the finish at sundown. Photo courtesy of Francois Nel/VOR

As for Charles Caudrelier, the French skipper aboard Donfeng, he was clearly having a hard time reconciling himself to second place after such a close finish. “Brunel have been much faster than us [for] a few days, and we don’t know why,” he said. “We’re a bit disappointed, because we did a good job to pass them, but they kept passing us.”

This now makes two VOR legs in a row in which the top two boats were battling within a mile of one another right up to the end. It’s incredible to think that only a few short years ago, a delta of a few hours was considered a photo finish.

In contrast to roll-of-the-dice tactical nature of Leg 2, the results sent a clear signal as to which teams seemed to have best figured out how to make their Volvo Ocean 65 one-designs go. The same three boats have now occupied all three podium positions in the first two legs—albeit in different order, so that they are now tied at four points apiece, with Team Brunel technically on top since they are the most recent to win a leg. Next is U.S. skipper Charlie Enright’s Team Alvimedica with 10 points, then Spain’s Mapfre with 11 and the all-women Team SCA with 12.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Adil Khalid on his Second VOR



For Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Adil Khalid, his second Volvo Ocean Race is as much of a dream as his first.

Even more important than the point standings is the fact that the three leaders appear to be racing at a whole different level from the tail end of the fleet. Granted, Team Alvimedica is a special case because it suspended racing for nearly 10 hours to stand by after Team Vestas ran aground, (and is currently looking for redress to compensate for that fact). However, when they did start racing again, it never really felt like they ever had a chance to close up the gap.

Same thing with Mapfre, which brought on two new crew after finishing dead last in Leg 1: the team made one mistake, separating from the fleet early on in search of wind, and that was it. Blame it on Lady Luck or the fickle winds of the western Indian Ocean, but as soon as the three leaders broke away, the fact that they and Team Alvimedica would be battling for fourth felt like a foregone conclusion.

 More bad news: SCA’s Carolijn Brouwer listens in on a position report midway through Leg 2. Photo courtesy of Corinna Halloran/Team SCA

More bad news: SCA’s Carolijn Brouwer listens in on a position report midway through Leg 2. Photo courtesy of Corinna Halloran/Team SCA

As for Team SCA, the crew is clearly frustrated with its performance thus far, despite beating Mapfre at the last moment in Leg 1, spending much of this most recent leg hundreds of miles behind the rest of the fleet. “It’s still a learning process,” said SCA skipper, Sam Davies. “Every condition is a good opportunity to keep learning and keep making the boat go a bit faster. We made a navigational mistake, which put us behind and then it became a procession. That was hard.”

That having been said, the VOR is a long race, and there’s still plenty of time for the heroes of today to look like zeros, and vice versa. There next chance for that to possibly happen will be when the fleet jumps off for the 4,670-mile leg to Sanya, China, on January 3.

Related

101218BTSC-9887

Just Launched: Little Big Boat

Peter Nielsen looks at Beneteau’s latest entry-level boat and a new cruiser from Tartan Group Beneteau’s commitment to entry-level boats has been reaffirmed over the last year with the assimilation of the sporty Seascape line of pocket cruisers and the ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com No chafe, safe stay  If you’re leaving the boat unattended for a longish period, there’s a lot to be said for cow-hitching the shorelines, as this sailor did. They’ll never let go, and so long as the ...read more

belize600x

Charter Special: Belize

It would be hard to imagine a more secure spot than the Sunsail base on the outskirts of the beachside community of Placencia, Belize. The entire marina is protected by a robust seawall with a channel scarcely a few boatlengths across. It’s also located far enough up Placencia ...read more

DSC00247

DIY: a Top-to-Bottom Refit

I found my sailing “dream boat” in the spring of 1979 while racing on Lake St. Clair in Michigan. Everyone had heard about the hot new boat in town, and we were anxiously awaiting the appearance of this new Pearson 40. She made it to the starting line just before the race ...read more

01-oysteryachts-regattas-loropiana2016_063

Light-air Sails and How to Handle Them

In the second of a two-part series on light-air sails, Rupert Holmes looks at how today’s furling gear has revolutionized sail handling off the wind. Read part 1 here. It’s easy to look at long-distance racing yachts of 60ft and above with multiple downwind sails set on roller ...read more

HanseCharles

Video Tour: Hanse 348

“It’s a smaller-size Hanse cruiser, but with some big-boat features,” says SAIL’s Cruising Editor, Charles J. Doane. At last fall’s Annapolis Boat Show, Doane had a chance to take a close look at the new Hanse 348. Some of the boat’s highlights include under-deck galleries for ...read more

amalfitown

Charter Destination: Amalfi Coast

Prego! Weeks after returning from our Italian flotilla trip last summer, I was still feeling the relaxed atmosphere of the Amalfi Coast. It’s a Mediterranean paradise, with crystal-clear waters, charming hillside towns and cliffside villages, plenty of delicious food and wine, ...read more

image005

Inside or Outside When Sailing the ICW

Last April, my wife, Marjorie, and I decided to take our Tartan 4100, Meri, north to Maryland from her winter home in Hobe Sound, Florida. This, in turn, meant deciding whether to stay in the “Ditch” for the duration or go offshore part of the way. Although we had both been ...read more