Skip to main content

Volvo Race Set to Cross Bay of Biscay

  • Author:
  • Updated:
    Original:

In Volvo Ocean Race terms, the upcoming 647-mile leg from Lisbon, Portugal, to Lorient, France, looks like little more than a daysail, especially when viewed in the context of the course as a whole. However, the sailors themselves know that Leg 8, which begins this Sunday, will be anything but a cakewalk.

First, the fleet will have to contend with what will likely be a beat up the Portuguese and Spanish coasts. Then it has to traverse the Bay of Biscay, one of the most notoriously stormy bodies of water in the world. In fact, in the last edition of VOR the fleet encountered some of the worst weather of the entire race right near the finish in these very waters.

Of course, given the right set of circumstances, the bay can also go frustratingly light, creating a tactical nightmare for the fleet’s already exhausted navigators.

Either way, race organizers expect the fleet to complete the sprint by June 12 at the very latest.

Meanwhile, as the sailors and shore crews set about their final preparations, they also find themselves dealing with a radically altered leaderboard after SCA, Dongfeng and MAPFRE were all penalized for sailing the wrong way through the Traffic Separation Scheme shipping lanes off the U.S. coast shortlyafter the start of Leg 7 out of Newport.

[advertisement]

The crews of all three boats said the violations were honest mistakes and the result of unclear directions on the part of the race committee. Nonetheless, an independent jury decided some kind of redress was necessary and added a point to each of their overall scores.

The result is that Dongfeng not only falls back to six points behind overall leader Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Azzam—the same position it found itself in at the start of leg 7—but now finds itself tied for second with the surging Brunel, winner of the leg to Lisbon. Similarly, further back in the standings, MAPFRE’s penalty drops the team back down to where it is tied for fourth with Alvimedica.

Obviously, the decision comes as a blow to those penalized, especially skipper Charles Caudrelier and the crew of Dongfeng, who saw an opportunity to take a big bite out of Azzam’s lead throughout much of Leg 7 only to have it vanish in the final hours of the race. However, it also poses an interesting dilemma for Azzam skipper Ian Walker, who now finds himself having to cover two strong rivals as opposed to just one.

Finally, Leg 8 will see the eight-boat VOR fleet at full strength for the first time since Vestas Wind ran aground in the Indian Ocean last November. Since then skipper Chris Nicholoson and the rest of his team have been working round the clock to salvage the boat, ship it back to the boat’s Italian builder and get it race ready again—a task made that much more complicated by the need to keep the boat class legal.

[advertisement]

In fact, the pressure wasn’t off until only a few days ago, when the boat launched on the May 31 and team was able to check out all the systems under actual sailing conditions. Luckily, the boat has reportedly done magnificently and is ready for the challenge ahead—matching up against its seven now fully seasoned rivals.

“It’s a massive hurdle to have overcome. It’s something we don’t have to think back to anymore,” said shore manager Neil Cox. “Now it’s about enjoying the future…. It’s no longer a boat building race, it’s a boat race.”

Not that the pressure is off—it never is in the Volvo Ocean Race. Anybody who thinks the rest of the fleet is going to cut Vestas Wind and skipper Chris Nicholson any slack because of what they’ve been through is dreaming. Whether or not Vestas Wind is truly ready to race remains to be seen. All the smiles in Lisbon could very easily be ancient history by the time the blue boat arrives in Lorient.

Related

DUFOUR_470.JM-LIOT-15

Boat Review: Dufour 470

Annapolis may be the sailing capital of America, but if you looked around the United States Sailboat Show last fall, you would have no choice but to conclude most sailboats are now built in Europe. The Dufour 470 is a good example of a modern French performance cruiser. DESIGN & ...read more

01-LEAD-IMG_6563

Close Encounters: Captain Sarah Schelbert

I met Captain Sarah Schelbert back in 2019 while on the boat trip from hell aboard a seaworthy but poorly run Triton 28 in the western Caribbean. I was trying to help the owner sail his boat back to Florida from the Rio Dulce, in Guatemala. Outbound from the river basin, we had ...read more

02-Voice-of-the-Oceans---sailboat-Kat-11

Raising Their Voices

Many of us who are cruising sailors have been sailing mid-ocean or walking along a perfect beach in the middle of seemingly nowhere, only to be appalled at the amount of plastic trash we find. Few of us, however, have taken that disheartening reality and turned it into a ...read more

IC37racingonSunday-Photo-by-Paul-Todd

IC37 North American Championship

This past weekend saw 20 IC37s off Newport, Rhode Island engage in fast and furious one-design racing with the win going to Peter McClennen’s Gamecock. “It’s huge,” said McClennen of the win. “I think of the one-designs of this club going back to the New York 30 [built in ...read more

01-LEAD-IMG_2056

South Pacific Storm Prep

Having set ourselves the task of transforming our recently purchased Open 66 ex-Vendée Globe racer, NV, into a performance family cruiser, my partner, Timo, and I found ourselves (extremely) high and dry as cyclone season approached. The favorite cyclone strategy in Fiji is to ...read more

00-Alexe-1---GUaGKDY4-single-boat-sailing-away-from-skyline,-Hill-Holiday

Cruising: Find Your Own Adventure

Whether they’re at the end of their collegiate career or after aging out of a summer sailing program, a lot of young sailors have a hard time finding a way to continue sailing as adults. Some of the barriers to sailing, including location, finances and time, can be hard to ...read more

00LEAD-IMG_2183

Heavy Hitters on Heavy Weather

“What’s the joke about heavy weather? You know it when you see it.” Figure 8 singlehander Randall Reeves drew laughs from the Cruising Club of America (CCA) sailors attending the forum “Heavy Weather Sailing: Bluewater Perspectives” as part of the CCA’s centennial celebration in ...read more

Nominne-Promo-2048x1149

Best Boat Nominees 2023

The more things change, the more they seem to stay the same. Some of it is timing. Some of it is just the way of the world. Either way, it can be fascinating to see the evolution of the boatbuilding industry over the years, as has been evident in SAIL magazine’s annual Best Boats ...read more