December 21, 2011
CAT AND MOUSE FOR PUMA’S MAR MOSTRO AND TELEFÓNICA
At the front of the fleet, the pressure is on Groupama 4 and Franck Cammas who have just 24 hours to translate their 45 nautical miles lateral separation into distance ahead as they approach the windless belt of Doldrums.
On board, the team is focused on teasing every ounce of speed out of their boat, sailing as fast as they dare to maximise their lead and give them the best shot at crossing the 300-mile belt of doldrums ahead and meeting the fresh westerlies that lie beyond it.
It is all about boatspeed and straight line sailing for the first four boats, which are now in the same weather pattern and beam reaching in east-southeasterly trade winds. There are no real options to the west or east and Groupama still has a better angle to the breeze and so is able to sail faster.
Just over 85 nm behind Groupama, PUMA’s Mar Mostro (Ken Read/USA) is 30 nm to the east and seven nm ahead of overall race leader Telefónica (Iker Martínez/ESP) as the two go head to head again.
Fourth-placed CAMPER (Chris Nicholson/AUS) is still in touch, but Ian Walker and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing are now 224 nm in arrears.
As the fleet approaches the east African exclusion zone, put in place by race organisers to keep the fleet away from the worst affected area of pirate activity, thoughts of attacks are uppermost in the minds of the crews.
“Pirates initially make you think of a smelly, drunk man standing on a peg leg with a parrot on his shoulder. Unfortunately, the issue isn’t so comical,” writes Hamish Hooper, MCM with CAMPER. “It is a very real and present danger that everyone in this race is taking seriously.”
Before leaving Alicante the crews were all fully briefed on the piracy issue and onboard PUMA’s Mar Mostro, the philosophy is a simple one: be smart, be aware, keep the boat moving and stay away from areas of high risk.
Last edited by mpowlison; 12-21-2011 at 01:48 PM.
December 22, 2011
GROUPAMA LEAD FLEET INTO MYSTERY 'STEALTH ZONE'
Groupama sailing team’s position was cloaked on Thursday as they led the Volvo Ocean Race fleet into the Leg 2 anti-piracy stealth zone.
The French team, skippered by Franck Cammas, were the first to pass into the stealth zone, implemented by race organisers to mask the exact location of the yachts as they head towards an unnamed ‘safe haven’ in the Indian Ocean.
Groupama 4 entered the area, where fans will still be able to see the relative positions of the boats via the Distance to Leader feature, shortly after 1000 UTC, around 80 nautical miles ahead of their closest rivals PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG.
At the 1300 UTC position report, PUMA had a lead of around 15nm over third placed Team Telefónica, with CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand trailing Telefónica by around 38nm.
The big challenge to Groupama's lead could come from the Doldrums, the band of dynamic, variable low pressure characterised by light winds but notorious for sudden squalls, and well capable of reshuffling the leaderboard entirely.
“We’re going into an area where the wind is very hard to anticipate so we have to be very pragmatic and take all opportunities to get through the Doldrums,” said Cammas, who was preparing to celebrate his 39th birthday on board with a chocolate cake.
“For sure we know the other boats will get closer in the next day or two because we will enter the light wind zone before the others. We are happy with the position we have now but we know anything can happen in this kind of weather situation. It’s part of the game and we have to be very clever with the troughs and squalls in this area.”
Before they even get to the Doldrums, though, there is a moving low front to the east of the fleet, with more opportunities for a shake-up in the order.
“The big question is east or west,” said Tom Addis, navigator on second-placed PUMA. “We’re probably about 80 or 90 per cent set on the western option so we’re sailing low and fast for that. It’s generally tidier there and it’s the shortest distance and I think we have time to get round the front of this low. That’s our preferred option but nothing is set in stone. We still can make a course change.”
Once they reach the secret safe haven, the fleet will be shipped to a location off the Sharjah coastline, a measure introduced to minimise the risk of piracy. They will resume the race at that point with a sprint into Abu Dhabi.
Team Sanya continue to work on a plan to see them back in the leg after they were forced to suspend racing and head for Madagascar with rigging problems. They had a 200nm lead on the fleet at the time. “I think it’s really settled in for all of us now, and it hurts,” skipper Mike Sanderson said.
The parts which failed will be flown from Madagascar to Valencia, Spain, and back in a repair job that could take up to three weeks. “We are blessed with infinite support from friends, family and loved ones and our fans that have been amazing,” Sanderson added. “Our sponsors and supporters have been nothing but inspiring in their unwavering support and positivity for this team.”
December 26, 2011
Telefónica edge out CAMPER in final miles of madness
Team Telefónica snatched victory from CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand to win a thrilling first stage of Leg 2 by one minute and 57 seconds and strengthen their position at the top of the overall leaderboard.
Telefónica celebrated crossing the finish line just before 1800 UTC on Monday with fist-pumps, screams, handshakes and hugs, after more than 15 days' racing from Cape Town to the secret location in the Indian Ocean.
Martínez described the run in as “final miles of madness” with the pair switching the lead repeatedly, until eight miles from the finish when Telefónica stole the lead from CAMPER, along with their chance of leaping to the top of the overall leaderboard.
Martínez said it was a very difficult game of “cat and mouse” that was played in the dark while dodging atolls. "I've never navigated at night so close to the rocks and with so many complicated manoeuvres," said the skipper.
“A few miles from the finish we thought we had few chances to pass CAMPER and there were three or four times during the night when we were left without wind.
"It was all a bit chaotic but luck changed sides, although the truth is either one of the teams could have crossed the line first.”
Telefónica claim 24 points for first place in the first of a two-stage, 5,430 nautical mile race to Abu Dhabi. The Spanish team remain in poll position on the overall race leaderboard with 61 points, followed by CAMPER on 54, having won 20 points for second place.
Nicholson said his team learned many lessons from their close quarter combat with Telefónica, especially since his team raced Leg 1 largely on their own.
Despite being disappointed the four-time Volvo competitor remained gracious in defeat, saying the right team ultimately won.
“I guess I sound negative but I’m actually quite disappointed in the result because we lead for the majority of this race,’’ he said. “We had an amazing battle with Telefónica these last few days and then we got rolled about an hour from the finish by one rogue cloud.
“Occasionally the sport can throw that up at you. Normally the good guys win. First of all Telefónica sailed a fantastic race, they really did, from start to finish. They were there to take the opportunities in the end. Normally the right guys win.”
CAMPER and Telefónica had initially flagged protests against each other following the nail-biting finish, but after discussions the teams mutually agreed to drop them.
PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG are currently in third place with just over 20 nm to go at 2200 UTC on Monday, followed by Groupama sailing team in fourth with 50 nm and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing fifth with 100 nm remaining.
Team Sanya continue to repair their rig at Madagascar, after being forced to suspend racing one week ago. The team are now focusing on getting in shape for the Leg 3 race to their home port of Sanya in China.
The boats will be shipped through waters notorious for pirates to a point off the Sharjah coastline in the northern United Arab Emirates in time to start the second stage of Leg 2, a day-long sprint to Abu Dhabi in early January for the remaining 20 per cent of the leg points.
December 27, 2011
DELICATE LOADING OPERATION BEGINS AFTER SAFE HAVEN ARRIVALS
Attention switched to a delicate operation to load the Volvo Ocean Race yachts onto a ship that will transport them to the United Arab Emirates following Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s arrival at a secret ‘safe haven’ in the Indian Ocean on Tuesday.
Abu Dhabi arrived in fifth place, the final boat that will be shipped following the arrivals of stage winners Team Telefónica followed by CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand, PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG and Groupama sailing team.
“I am upset not to have finished with a better result but on the other hand after the disaster of breaking our mast on Leg 1 I feel a strange feeling of relief to have at least completed the first part of the second leg,” Abu Dhabi skipper Ian Walker said.
As part of a raft of measures introduced by race organisers to counter piracy in the Indian Ocean, Leg 2 of the Volvo Ocean Race has been split into two parts with the location of the safe haven kept secret.
As soon as Telefónica arrived on Monday, work began to prepare her for the risky loading operation, an unprecedented move in the 38-year history of the Volvo Ocean Race.
The five 15-tonne yachts are being craned 40ft into the air onto a ship with their 100ft masts still in place before being transported to the northern United Arab Emirates. Neither the sailors nor the shore crews will be on board the ship during the transit.
Telefónica and CAMPER were first to be loaded in calm seas followed shortly by PUMA’s Mar Mostro.
Groupama 4 and Abu Dhabi’s Azzam should be loaded in the next few hours.
The ship’s loadmaster said: “Things are going exactly to plan so far. And I’m hopeful that all of the boats will be lifted on safely by this evening.”
It is thought the ship will leave for the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday, with the arrival due early in January.
The boats will then be unloaded and the leg will restart to Abu Dhabi, the Volvo Ocean Race’s first ever Middle Eastern stopover.
Team Telefónica will enter 2012 at the top of the overall leaderboard after picking up 24 points for winning the dramatic first stage of Leg 2 by an impossibly tight margin shortly before 1800 UTC on Monday.
They move seven points ahead of CAMPER, who they pipped to the line by one minute and 57 seconds after more than 4,000nm of racing.
PUMA Ocean Racing followed just over five hours later with Groupama coming in three hours later still.
“We went into this leg with confidence,” said a disappointed PUMA skipper Ken Read. “It’s a bit of a shame because we had a couple of points in this leg where we did really the right thing and put ourselves in the right position.”
Groupama skipper Franck Cammas added: “It’s frustrating because five days ago we were imagining winning the leg.
“The Doldrums was bad, and then the light spots at the end were bad. We know these conditions are not good for our boat and for our speed but for sure we didn’t manage the start very well.
“Maybe we were too frustrated before and we tried to come back with an option that was just too risky. It was a mistake, I think. We need to be more patient and not fight all the time for first place.”
Team Sanya, the sixth boat in the Volvo Ocean Race fleet, were forced to suspend racing and head for Madagascar after suffering rigging damage while in the lead on Day 9.
Their current focus is on getting the boat in the best shape possible for Leg 3 into their home port of Sanya in China.
December 28, 2011
VOLVO OCEAN RACE 2011-12 ANTI-PIRACY PLAN KICKS INTO ACTION
Alicante, Spain – The latest stage of the Volvo Ocean Race’s anti-piracy plans kicked into action on Wednesday, as five racing yachts were carefully lifted onto a commercial ship over the past 24 hours and readied for a transfer across the Indian Ocean to a set-down point off the Sharjah coastline in the northern Emirates.
It is the first time ever that 15-tonne Volvo Open 70 racing yachts have been lifted onto a commercial ship in open waters with their tall masts affixed to the boats.
Upon arrival in Sharjah, the teams will then take part in a one-day sprint to the finish line in Abu Dhabi for the completion of Leg 2, Stage 2, which will see 20 percent of the points in Leg 2 up for grabs.
Earlier this week, Telefónica captured stage 1 of Leg 2 from Cape Town to the secret safe haven port location in the Indian Ocean, adding to the team’s lead atop the overall leaderboard with 61 total points.
CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand finished second just under two minutes behind, while PUMA Ocean Racing powered by Berg, Groupama sailing team and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing rounded out the fleet’s arrival into the safe haven port.
After passing through customs, the boats were loaded onto a commercial ship in a carefully-choreographed process that saw all of the team’s shore crews working together as one unit, as each team were only able to have two shore crew members on-site.
Sailors, shore crews and race organisers worked round the clock and completed the risky task when Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Azzam, the fifth and final boat to arrive at the undisclosed safe haven in the Indian Ocean, was the last to be inched into a cradle on board the ship. For many of the crews and shore teams it was the end of two full days without sleep with work starting the moment the teams arrived late Monday.
The Race announced in August that the route for Legs 2 and 3 would be re-drawn because of the increased threat of piracy in the Indian Ocean. The scoring system was modified so that 80 percent of the points of Leg 2 would be based on the race between Cape Town and Safe Haven 1 and 20 percent for the short sprint into Abu Dhabi. For Leg 3, the operation will be reversed, with a short sprint from Abu Dhabi at the start of the leg. The boats will go back on a ship and be transported again to a Safe Haven Port. From there, they will sail on as normal to the Leg 3 finish in Sanya, China.
Throughout the process, Race Director Jack Lloyd and Knut Frostad, CEO of the Volvo Ocean Race, have worked closely with Dryad Maritime Intelligence plus government agencies including European Union Naval Force Somalia (EUNAVFOR), UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) and the Maritime Security Centre, Horn of Africa (MSCHOA) as well as the sport’s governing body, the International Sailing Federation (ISAF).
Piracy is a well-organised and highly lucrative business and it has expanded into a vast area off the coast of Somalia. According to figures from Dryad Maritime Intelligence,1,181 seafarers were kidnapped by pirates in 2010. Dryad’s Graeme Gibbon Brooks said pirate operations in the eastern part of the Indian Ocean had been significantly restricted.
“This factor, as well as very careful planning has reduced the probability of an encounter to as low as reasonably possible,” Gibbon Brooks said. “But while the probability is small, the impact of an attack when it happens is extremely high.”