Volvo Fleet Starts Southern Ocean Leg - Sail Magazine

Volvo Fleet Starts Southern Ocean Leg

After a three-day delay to avoid the worst of Cyclone Pam, the six-boat Volvo Ocean Race fleet has now set out from Auckland, New Zealand, for Leg 5 through the Southern Ocean. 
Author:
Publish date:

After a three-day delay to avoid the worst of Cyclone Pam, the six-boat Volvo Ocean Race fleet has now set out from Auckland, New Zealand, for Leg 5 through the Southern Ocean.

Although the competition couldn’t be tighter, with a tie for first place overall between Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and Dongfeng Race Team, the fleet has yet to be tested by any kind of prolonged rough conditions. However, all that is going to change in the course of this grueling 6,770-mile marathon to Itajaí, Brazil, via Cape Horn—what is in many ways the defining leg of the entire race.

According to VOR meteorologist, Gonzalo Infante, “The conditions will be light early on, with coastal sailing up to East Cape at the tip of New Zealand, but after a few days it will be the full-on Southern Ocean regime.” From then, he says, “The boats will be facing 25-35 knots of wind for much of the time until they round Cape Horn.”

Of course, this being the Southern Ocean, the fleet will also find itself dealing with finger-numbing cold, the threat of icebergs and the sometimes monstrous waves that result as the prevailing westerlies and low-pressure systems that define this part of the world march unimpeded around the South Pole.

 Off to adventure in the Southern Ocean… Photo courtesy of VOR/Ainhoa Sanchez

Off to adventure in the Southern Ocean… Photo courtesy of VOR/Ainhoa Sanchez

Not surprisingly, these kinds of boat-breaking conditions and the toll they take on their crews could create havoc in the leader board. In the words of Abu Dhabi navigator Simon Fisher: “There’s nowhere else on earth where you can do so much fast downwind sailing for so long. It’s going to be the first time the whole fleet sees a lot of wind for an extended period and it might shuffle the pack. Keeping in one piece all the way to the Horn is important, because that’s where the race will be won and lost.”

As evidence, race fans need look no further back than the 2011-12 VOR, when Leg 5 winner Puma Ocean Racing and skipper Ken Read were the only ones in the six-boat fleet to escape serious damage, and eventual overall winner Groupama found itself limping over the finish line under jury rig.

Still, for the sailors themselves, they wouldn’t want it any other way. In the words of six-time race veteran Stu Bannatyne of New Zealand, recruited by Team Alvimedica and U.S. skipper Charlie Enright to help show the rest of the crew the way around: “This is the best sailing in the world.”

“We are excited to get there,” agreed Enright, a little more cautiously on the eve of the start, “but there are a lot of unknowns between here and Brazil. We will experience a lot of heavy air downwind sailing which we seemed to be pretty good at leaving Cape Town, but the priority is to keep the boat and the crew in one piece.”

The boats are expected to arrive in Itajaí around April 7. We’ll see what kind of shape Enright and the rest of the fleet are in when they’re in when they get there. One things for sure, by the time they do, they will have all had a heck of an adventure.

Related

ElanGT5-a

Boat Review: Elan GT5

Aboard many modern yachts, it can be hard to remember exactly what boat you’re on until your eye happens to light upon a logo. However, this is most definitely not the case with the Elan GT5, a performance cruiser with a look all its own and style to burn.Design & ...read more

01-Lead-P1060210

Handheld VHF Radios

For many sailors, cell phones have become their primary means of both ship-to-shore and ship-to-ship communication. Even the Coast Guard will often ask for a cell number after it receives a distress call. None of this, however, makes a VHF radio any less important—and this goes ...read more

Seascape24

Boat Review: Seascape 24

Since its inception in 2008, Slovenian builder Seascape, founded by a pair of Mini Transat sailors, has focused solely on creating boats that are both simple and loads of fun to sail. With their 18-footer and then a 27-footer they succeeded in putting out a pair of trailerable ...read more

01-Trash-Tiki_in-partnership-with-Subtch-Sports_starting

The Adventurers Aboard Trash-Tiki

If you were in Gotland, a popular island vacation destination off the coast of Sweden, on the morning of July 3, your holiday might have been interrupted by a startling sight: a tiny island of trash approaching shore with people aboard. It was, in fact, a sailboat made from ...read more

atlantic-cup-trailer

2018 Atlantic Cup Video Mini-Series

Atlantic Cup 2018: TrailerThis past spring, SAIL magazine was on-hand to document the 2018 Atlantic Cup, a two-week-long Class 40 regatta spanning the U.S. East Coast and one of the toughest events in all of North America. The preview above will give you a taste of the four-video ...read more

hardangerfjord

Cruising: Holland to Norway

In 2015, we cruised to Norway’s Lofoten Islands on our Nordic 40, Juanona, which we’d sailed transatlantic from Maine to England. Our 2016 plan was to cruise through the Netherlands to the Kiel Canal, sail into the Baltic as far as Stockholm, then cruise the western coast of ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell.Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.comThe Watch-keeper’s Nightmare The commercial watchkeeper’s most awkward decisions come with a vessel converging from abaft the starboard beam showing a red light. If he’s more than 2 points, or around 22 ...read more

cosair760R

Boat Review: Corsair 760R

We’d only been out on Miami’s Biscayne Bay aboard the Corsair 760R a few minutes when Corsair Marine marketing manager Shane Grover and I began bemoaning the fact neither of us had a GPS with us to determine our boatspeed. Moments later, though, we both came to the same ...read more