Please select your home edition
Marine Resources 2017 728x90

Fleet likely to compress as light winds block the way in Volvo Ocean Race Leg 1

by Volvo Ocean Race 24 Oct 2017 17:02 BST 24 October 2017

The Volvo Ocean Race fleet was punching into the Atlantic on Tuesday after surviving their first test from the weather gods through the Gibraltar Strait overnight.

Vestas 11th Hour Racing still occupy the top spot after a challenging first 50 hours of the opening leg from Alicante, Spain, to Lisbon, Portugal, that has seen them dominate the leaderboard over their six rivals.

At one point skipper Charlie Enright's crew stretched out their advantage to more than 27 miles as they were catapulted out of the Strait by following winds gusting as high as 35 knots.

"We had a good night overnight, getting fired out of the Gibraltar jet," Vestas 11th Hour Racing navigator Simon 'SiFi' Fisher said. "We were happy to wake up to see that all of the boats are behind us and mostly on our line."

However that lead has started to be whittled away as the frontrunners reach painfully light winds blocking their path south west as they point for the turning mark at Porto Santo in the Madeira Islands.

Although Vestas 11th Hour Racing still have a comfortable 19-nautical-mile buffer, the 1300 UTC position report revealed that speeds on the blue boat have dropped to an excruciating 1.7 knots.

Meanwhile Spanish crew MAPFRE, the real winners overnight rocketing from fourth to second, were making 11.4 knots – the fastest in the fleet – from their position as the northernmost boat.

MAPFRE skipper Xabi Fernandez worked his team hard through the night, putting in 11 gybes to stay within a narrow band of pressure.

The effort paid off, and MAPFRE were able to overhaul both Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag and team Akzonobel.

"It was tough conditions with winds up to 35 knots, and we had to throw in some gybes," explained MAPFRE navigator Joan Vila. "Right now we are waiting for the shift to gybe to port, and then we know it will become very tricky and light. To be honest, anything can still happen in this leg."

In stark contrast to the past 24 hours of full-on downwind action the breeze is forecast to drop to less than seven knots and swing 180 degrees, resulting in the fleet sailing upwind in light wind mode.

Lying between them and Porto Santo is an enormous wind hole 100 nautical miles wide which the navigators must carefully pick their way through.

It is highly likely to have a concertina effect on the fleet whereby any gains made thus far are largely wiped out as the fleet compresses.

That's bad news for the leaders but will be welcomed by the likes of Dongfeng Race Team, Turn the Tide on Plastic and Team Brunel further back down the track.

Turn the Tide on Plastic boat captain Liz Wardley said they were happy to have just made it through their first big breeze test in one piece.

"It got pretty hairy last night and we ended up with 36, 37 knots of breeze downwind gybing through the Strait, avoiding the traffic separation zone," she said. "But we got through it pretty well mid fleet, and now the breeze is slowly dying out. In a few hours' time we're probably going to have a very different breeze of five to seven knots. We've had a few transitions to go through and we're just crawling back into the fleet now after a few losses last night. We've got good speed on the guys around us so we're looking good."

The fleet might be slowing down but the action is just heating up.

Leg 1 Position Report at 13:00 UTC:

1. Vestas 11th Hour Racing (813.3 nautical miles to finish)
2. MAPFRE +19.7nm
3. team AkzoNobel + 21.9nm
4. Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag +29.7nm
5. Dongfeng Race Team +30.8nm
6. Turn the Tide on Plastic +32.4nm
7. Team Brunel +32.5nm

Related Articles

Volvo Ocean Race Leg 6 Day 16
Dee Caffari was preparing to lead her team through the world's second-largest barrier reef Caffari said she will thread her Turn the Tide on Plastic crew through the Grand Passage, a narrow gap in the barrier reef surrounding the South Pacific island chain of New Caledonia, in the hunt for the tiniest of time advantages. Posted on 22 Feb
Turn the Tide on Plastic lead in the Doldrums
There's a new leader on Leg 6 as Turn the Tide on Plastic steps forward... Spirits on board are so high that on board reporter James Blake flew the drone down the main companionway hatch, through the boat, and out a forward hatch. Keep scrolling below to watch the footage. Posted on 21 Feb
Volvo Ocean Race Leg 6 Day 15
New leader Turn the Tide on Plastic made their move to the head of the fleet overnight. Dee Caffari's talented young sailors ghosted past Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag as they capitalised on the tiniest puffs of breeze in an otherwise windless Doldrums. Posted on 21 Feb
Volvo OR: Turn the Tide on Plastic leads Leg 6
There's a new leader on Leg 6 as Turn the Tide on Plastic steps forward... Dee Caffari's Turn the Tide on Plastic and Team Brunel, nearly 70 miles further east, than AkzoNobel and SHK Scallywag found better breeze and made significant gains. Posted on 21 Feb
Volvo OR fleet tight on food as Leg 6 drags on
The routing is now starting to settle down, and the highway to the finish is becoming clear After several days of playing off one cloud against another in search of a useful breeze, the Volvo Ocean Race fleet looks set to endure those conditions for another day or so. However the routing is now starting to settle down, and the highway to the Posted on 21 Feb
Volvo Ocean Race: Vestas repair progresses in NZ
The repair of Vestas 11th Hour Racing makes good progress in Auckland The port bow repair of Vestas 11th Hour racing appears to be progressing well in Auckland. In the latest shots released by the team the replacement bow section from Persico Marine, in Bergamo, Italy has been offered to the cut-out hull section Posted on 21 Feb
Volvo Ocean Race Leg 6 Day 14
Volvo Ocean Race fleet is facing another 48 hours of excruciating sailing Lying ahead of them is a 400-mile gulf that stretches as far south as New Caledonia, severely hampering progress towards New Zealand as Leg 6 enters its 14th day. Posted on 20 Feb
David Witt explains the two bands worn by the crew
"Never give up!" is the motto aboard SHK Scallywag, exemplified by two special bands the crew wear "Never give up!" is the motto aboard SHK Scallywag, exemplified by two special bands the crew wear every day which have a special meaning for the crew. David Witt tells their stories on this Youtube clip way better than we could ever explain here. Posted on 20 Feb
Volvo Ocean Race Leg 6 Day 13
Leaders hold on as rankings tighten As team AkzoNobel and Scallywag bumped up against an area of calm, those chasing were enjoying 10 to 15 knots of wind and making impressive gains. In fact, the distance from first to last has nearly been halved in 24 hours. Posted on 19 Feb
Plenty of options for navigators as breeze drops
Volvo Ocean Race - Fiji or the Gold Coast on the Volvo OR itinerary as fleet compresses Navigators in the Volvo Ocean Race have some big decisions ahead as the fleet compresses ahead of entering an area of light winds Posted on 19 Feb