Volvo Ocean Race Even Closer than Expected

A week and a half into the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race, the competition has been even tighter than anticipated as the fleet makes its way south in a tight bunch. Although the all-women SCA team was the first to exit the Mediterranean via the Straits of Gibraltar, the other boats quickly reeled them back in as they sailed into a calm.

A week and a half into the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race, the competition has been even tighter than anticipated as the fleet continues to make its way south in a tight bunch. Although the all-women SCA team was the first to exit the Mediterranean via the Straits of Gibraltar, the other boats quickly reeled them back in as SCA sailed into a calm.

After that, for all intents and purpose, a third of the way to the finish in Cape Town, South Africa, the race remained a dead heat as the seven teams closed with the doldrums on Tuesday. Since then, things have begun to thin out as the teams started picking their separate lanes through that notoriously quirky stretch of water—playing every cloud and puff in an effort to cross over into the South Atlantic. Nonetheless, with little more than 100 miles separating the front and back of the fleet, it remains anyone’s race.

In stark contrast to the 2011-12 VOR, there has yet to be any kind of serious carnage in the form of broken hulls or fallen masts, despite some heavy weather as the boats made their way along the Spanish coast in the first couple of days after the Oct. 11 start in Alicante.

On day seven, China’s Dongfeng hit a submerged object that destroyed its port rudder, causing the team to stop and effect repairs, a twist of fate that was especially bitter given that the boat held the lead at the time.

Video of Team Dongfeng repairing its rudder at sea

However, in a gutsy move, navigator Pascal Bidegorry elected to split with the rest of the fleet afterward as it threaded its way through the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of Africa, a move that propelled Dongfeng back into the lead.

The other teams have also had their share of close calls after sailing in so close to the African coast in search of breeze that they could see the distant sand dunes of the Sahara. Team SCA, for example, snagged a fish net at one point, and Dutch-flagged Team Brunel had to send a crewmember overboard to free a strip of plastic from the boat’s keel. But for the most part, the fleet has been able to enjoy a trouble-free, albeit anxious race.

Dongfeng was lucky that conditions were fairly calm when it broke its rudder, which allowed the crew to install a backup in a little over two hours. Nonetheless, the fact they were able to do so in the dead of night was an impressive bit of seamanship, to say the least.

“At 0210, [crewmember] Thomas Rouxel was driving when we hit something,” said the team’s onboard media crew, Yann Riou. “The impact was violent. We didn't know what we hit. We checked the windward runner, we started to check the keel, and we wiped out.”

According to Riou, the crew had two options: install the boat’s emergency rudder and continue sailing, or remove what was left of the old rudder and put in a replacement the boat was carrying. After a brief debate, skipper Charles Caudrelier decided to go with the latter option.

“We prepared the rudder, we furled the A3, took it down and dropped the mainsail,” Riou said. “At that moment, we saw Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing passing next to us…Thomas put the diving suit on. He jumped into the water. Bowman Kevin Escoffier was in the aft compartment, and the rest of the crew on deck. We removed what was left from the old rudder (not much), and we put the new one in place…. We hoisted the main and the A3, we gybed, and we unfurled the A3. We are now sailing at 20 knots.”

Impressive, to say the least!



Eight Bells: Bob Fisher

Bob Fisher passed away at age 85 on Monday, according to a social media post from his daughter. “He lived his whole life to the fullest and shall leave the fondest of memories not only as a husband and father, [and] as a friend to all the sailing community in the UK, but to the more


Reeves Awarded CCA’s Highest Honor

The Cruising Club of America awarded Randall Reeves the 2020 Blue Water Medal for his solo Figure-8 voyage. The Figure-8 comprises a loop around the American continents and a loop around the Antarctic, keeping the Americas to port and Antarctica to starboard. The voyage was more


Book Review: Cruising Club of America, Great Lakes Station

Reviewed by Amanda Balasubramanian As we were preparing for our first significant offshore passage in 2013, I read every book on ocean sailing I could find. However, while there were a number of helpful books full of technical information, I also longed for the personal stories more


Gear: Henri Llloyd Fremantle Gear

Henri Lloyd looked to the past for inspiration when designing its newest line of racing gear—specifically the kit worn by Dennis Conner’s Stars and Stripes campaign (also designed by Henri Lloyd) during the 1987 America’s Cup in Fremantle, Australia. The new collection, with its more

Suggested Crop

Ask Sail: When to Use a Vang Sheet

TO VANG OR NOT TO VANG Q: Last year, I bought a new, fully-battened Dacron main for my 36-footer. Unlike the old one, the new main is loose-footed. I have a mid-boom sheet arrangement and a traditional (non-rigid) vang. Is the vang really doing anything? It seems to me that more


Video: INEOS UK Advances to the Prada Cup Finals

On Saturday, in what was surely the most exciting race of the series, INEOS Team UK beat Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli to earn a spot in the Prada Cup finals. The race was extraordinarily close, seeing shifty breezes, nine lead changes in just under 30 minutes and boatspeeds topping more


VIDEO: Sailing Not just for Millionaires

Sailing and boating can come with a hefty price tag, but there are plenty of ways to get on the water without breaking the bank. In this episode of Boat Talk, SAIL's managing editor Lydia Mullan and Power & Motor Yacht's executive editor Charlie Levine share tips on getting out more


Elcano Challenge Resurrected

In late 2020, sailing legend Jimmy Cornell set off on his Elcano Challenge, a green-powered circumnavigation aboard the custom Outremer Aventura Zero. Unfortunately, shortly after setting out, the boat encountered major power-generation issues. "I took the decision to turn more