Skip to main content

Volvo Ocean Racing Leg 3 Tight as Ever

It’s been more of the same for the six remaining boats in the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race fleet during the early stages of Leg 3: painfully light winds for the first 72 hours after the January 3 re-start in Abu Dhabi followed by yet more nail-bitingly close competition.
  • Author:
  • Updated:

It’s been more of the same for the six remaining boats in the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race fleet during the early stages of Leg 3: painfully light winds for the first 72 hours after the January 3 re-start in Abu Dhabi followed by yet more nail-bitingly close competition. Five days into the 4,600-mile leg to Sanya, China, the race remains essentially a dead heat with only a handful of miles separating first- and last place. Ahead lie multiple navigational and tactical challenges that promise to make this the most vexing and sleep-deprived leg yet.

“It may look very boring on the Internet, like everyone is sailing the same way, but when you’re on the boat, you’re getting little puffs, gaining 100 meters, and they make a huge difference in the long run,” says Team Brunel’s Andrew Cape. “We were last out of the Gulf, and we slowly worked our way back in second…. It’s good sailing. It’s tricky!”

“Out here on Leg 3, life is always changing,” agrees Team SCA onboard reporter Corinna Halloran. “You can’t get too comfortable. This is only the beginning, so it’s hard not to get too excited by the small gains, and on the flip slide not beat yourself up for the small losses.

Now that the fleet has successfully threaded its way through the narrow Strait of Hormuz, the race is on to make the most of the seasonal monsoon winds after a couple of days playing the sea breeze off the Pakistani coast.

After that it’s hang onto whatever remains of the monsoon after rounding the southern tip of India and head for the dreaded Malacca Strait, the narrow body of water that separates Sumatra from Malaysia. Commercial traffic, unmarked fishing nets and fishing boats, and even the occasion pirate—this bathtub-warm body of water has it all. In the words of VOR meteorologist Gonzalo Infante: “Malacca is a very random place with a generally light wind. The Equator is not far and there are a lot of navigation hazards. The seabed is not fixed, and the navigation charts are not very good in the area. Lots of traffic, lots of land breeze too: every day in Malacca is different! Having sailed there before can actually play against you.”

At the east end of the Malacca Strait is yet another bottleneck, the Strait of Singapore, after which the fleet heads north across the South China Sea toward Sanya—where the competitors will likely face upwind sailing and some serious chop much of the way, possibly even boat-breaking conditions. This is a part of the world that has certainly played havoc with various Volvo boats in years past.

Meanwhile, back on shore, Team Vestas is now desperately trying to get its boat back in shape after salvaging the hull and rig of the reef where it ran aground a couple of hundred miles off Mauritius in the middle of the India Ocean. Best-case scenario at this point is rejoining the fleet in Lisbon for the final two legs of the race.

“We got the boat off the reef in better condition than we thought possible,” says Team Vestas skipper Chris Nicholson. “There are large portions of the deck that can be reused—70 to 80 percent—and a lot of other components within the structure. We’ll rebuild our boat just as we rebuild our hopes and dreams.”

Of course, hopes and dreams aside, whether or not rejoining the race will actually be possible remains an open question. A new Volvo Ocean 65 typically takes at least eight months to build. Team Vestas is aiming to effectively do much the same in about half that time.

First stop for Vestas Wind is Malaysia, where it will undergo a more detailed assessment than was possible out on the reef. After that it will be transported to Bergamo, Italy, for the repairs themselves. We’ll see how the team fares. Clearly, the next few months are going to be busy ones for all involved!



Cruising: Old Sailors Never Die

“Old sailors never die, they just get a little dinghy.” It may be a hoary old joke, but one of my problems at age 79 is I can no longer get easily in and out of a little dinghy, and neither can my (several years younger than me) wife. For this, and various other reasons I will more


The Mighty Compass

Here’s to the humble magnetic compass, without a doubt the sailor’s most reliable instrument onboard. It’s always there for you and with the rarest of exceptions, always operational. Yes, I love my chartplotter, autopilot, radar and AIS. They help me be a safer and more more


Chartering: Swan Song in the BVI

Joseph Conrad once wrote, “The sea never changes.” And while this may or not be true, something most definitely not open for debate is the fact we sailors, “wrapped in mystery,” as Conrad put it, are continually changing—whether we like it or not. I found myself thinking these more


Boat Review: Fountaine-Pajot Aura 51

If you can sell more than 150 catamarans off-plan before the resin has even hit the fiberglass, you must be doing something right. Despite costing around $1.1 million once fitted out and on the water, Fountaine-Pajot’s new 51 has done just that. The French yard has been at it more


Ready to Fly a New Sail

It’s a typical humid, southern Chesapeake Bay summer day when I show up on the doorstep of Latell & Ailsworth Sailmakers in the one-stoplight, one-lane-roadway, rural tidewater town of Deltaville, Virginia. I’m late getting here to work on a new jib for my 29-foot, Bill more


Dates for the 2024 America’s Cup Announced

Ever since making the controversial decision to hold the next America’s Cup in Barcelona, Spain, instead of in home waters, Defender Emirates Team New Zealand has been hard at work organizing logistics for the event.  The Racing Area for the Challenger Selection Series and the more


A Force for Change: Captain Liz Gillooly

I first heard about Capt. Liz Gillooly in 2016 from my cousin while working three jobs in our shared hometown on the North Fork of Long Island and living with my parents to save money for a boat. But despite being the same age and growing up only 13 miles apart, Liz and I never more


Sailing in the Growth Zone

The Goal This year, I’ve had a specific goal to be a better sailor. Some people have laughed and said, “Why do you need to be a better sailor? This was my 22nd year racing on the same boat, with the same crew. I like to win and want to make sure we stay at the top of the fleet. more