Less than a week after the finish of Leg 1 of the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race, it’s back to work as the seven teams comprising the fleet get set for their first big oceanic leg: from Lisbon to Cape Town, South Africa.
Currently, the joint U.S./Danish effort Vestas 11 Racing is in the lead, with the other two podium spots occupied by a pair of other very experienced teams that were very much expected to be there: Spain’s MAPFRE in second and China’s Dongfeng in third.
That said, despite Vestas taking a commanding lead early on, in just the first few hours out of Alicante, Spain—a lead it would carry straight through until the finish—a mere six hours separated the first- and last-place boats at the end of more than 1,500 miles of racing. In other words, no one ran away with it, and this very much remains anyone’s race.
“Can’t argue with the results,” said Vestas skipper, U.S. sailor Charlie Enright upon finishing in Lisbon. “For us, it has always been the process and improving every day. We prioritized getting the right people and this provides us with a lot of confidence. I can’t say enough about the squad on the boat and the ones on the shore.”
“To kick it off this way is a strong sentiment to the team,” agreed team director and co-Founder, fellow U.S. sailor Mark Towill. “We have a long way to go for sure, and this is a great way to start the event.”
As for Leg 2, a 7,000-mile marathon that starts in the North Atlantic, crosses the doldrums and continues on down the South Atlantic to the tip of Africa, fans can expect to see classic VOR racing as the fleet works its way through a wide range of sailing conditions.
Look for the position of the Azores High, which in turn dictates the state of the northeast Trade Winds, to see if the race will get off to a fast start. After that comes the Canary and Cape Verde islands, which not only serve as obstacles but as tactical opportunities as they twist and bend the winds in the area, creating opportunities for the different teams to either catch up again with their rivals or pull farther ahead, whatever the case may be.
After that, it’s the Doldrums, or intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ), the band of light and variable winds (and squalls) surrounding the equator following by the South Atlantic, where the key to success is negotiating the St. Helena High: a vast area of high barometric pressure and low windspeeds.
Finally, there’s the Southern Ocean and Westerly Storm Track, where the teams must find the best point at which to hook onto the powerful weather systems defining the area for a quick trip to the finish. Good luck to all seven teams at this, the start of the first truly demanding leg of the 2017-18 VOR.