Jan 30 2012
MONSOON SURGE AWAITS FLEET AFTER TRICKY MALACCA EXIT
More than 1000 nautical miles of upwind sailing is looking oddly appealing to the Volvo Ocean Race crews charging away from the frustrations of the Malacca and Singapore straits into the South China Sea on Monday.
At 1500 UTC the top five yachts had compressed to within 25 nautical miles (nm) of each other. Team Sanya however are trailing by more than 155 nm in sixth place.
Leg leaders Team Telefónica were within hailing distance of Groupama sailing team overnight, but have since extended their 20 metre gap over the second place French team to more than three nautical miles.
In third place PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG are on the comeback trail, closing to within eight nautical miles of Telefónica after a fishing net they snagged earlier today took one hour to detach and put them more than 10 nm behind the leaders.
In fourth and fifth respectively Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand have continued to shadow each other closely in a match race along the Malaysian coast, more than 22 nm behind the leaders.
After four days’ racing in Malacca Strait’s fickle conditions Team Telefónica are this afternoon expected to lead the fleet on a starboard rounding of the Horsburgh Lighthouse into the open waters of the South China Sea.
Race meteorologist Gonzalo Infante said the fleet was likely to experience a northeasterly monsoon wind of about 10-15 knots until they round an archipelago including Rigan, Nunsa and Selia islands tomorrow morning.
Infante predicted the going would get tough as the teams trek north towards the Vietnam coast with a building monsoon surge generating strong winds and a four to five metre swell.
“It is very going to be very rough racing with gale force winds predicted and a very rough sea state building,’’ he said. “The sailors will have to try to slow their boats down to try not to break anything. Anything can happen here.”
Team Telefónica watch captain Neal McDonald said the crew had been awake for 20 hours in the past 24 and completed as many as 12 gybe maneuvers in one hour as they negotiated the exit from the strait and defended attacks from competitors.
The promise of open water and upwind conditions was proving motivating for the team, McDonald said.
“It’s quite intense, you can make a mistake so easily and it could cost miles,’’ McDonald said of the Malacca and Singapore straits. “There is a lot of pressure to keep pushing the boat hard and make sure you do the right thing all the time.
“We’re getting a little excited about getting out of here and getting into some straight forward sailing.
McDonald said sailing against the strong winds for the final stretch to Sanya, China should suit the Spanish boat who lead the race overall after winning the first two legs.
“Upwind seems to suit us quite well, but we’re quite comfortable that we’ll have nice conditions for us once we get out of here. The boat’s well set up for that, I think we’ve got good sailors on board, the sail programme is good and we just feel comfortable in those conditions,” he said.
However, second placed Groupama are preparing to strike. Skipper Franck Cammas said his team had made improvements to their upwind performance which he hoped would help them gain the lead on the 1200 nm beat to Sanya, China.
“This is where we will have to try to overtake the leader,’’ Cammas said. “Upwind is not our best condition, but we have improved. It’s always good to start these miles with some advantage, especially related to CAMPER, who is a good upwind boat.”
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing skipper Ian Walker also had gains on his mind, having edged in front of CAMPER by less than one nm at 1400 UTC. Walker said while the straits had been mentally taxing, he believed the South China Sea would be physically challenging.
“We are closer to the leaders than we have been since day four and we have had great fun trading places with CAMPER for the last 24 hours,’’ he said. “Looking ahead it would be fair to say that nobody on board is looking forward to the last part of this leg - - 1200 miles upwind to China with some rough conditions certain off the Vietnamese coast.”
A faster than expected passage through the Malacca Strait has seen the estimated time of arrival for the leading boats move to around February 4.
Team Sanya will receive full Leg 3 points when they finish at their home port, as they were unable to take part in Stage 1 because of a rigging problem, while the other five teams who successfully completed the first stage of Leg 3 will receive 80 per cent of the points for completing the second stage.
Feb 5 2012
DRUMMERS AND DRAGON DANCERS GIVE SANYA SPECIAL HOMECOMING
Thousands of fans lined the dock to deliver a raucous late night welcome to Team Sanya, the first sole Chinese entry in the Volvo Ocean Race, as they sailed into their home port on Sunday.
Firecrackers sounded as the exhausted team, including the first Chinese sailor to compete in the race Teng "Tiger" Jiang He, stepped ashore for hugs, kisses and cheers from friends, family and well-wishers at Sanya Serenity Marina.
The 37-year-old entrepreneur, who started sailing only two years ago, was greeted with open arms by his wife and two sons, plus his extended family, in an emotional dockside reunion.
Earlier, skipper Mike Sanderson handed the wheel to his Chinese team mate for him to steer Team Sanya across the finish line in his home country.
Tiger said that moment had been a unique and emotional experience and confessed to being lost for words at the sight of his countrymen’s turnout.
"We’re all very happy to be home to my motherland, especially in time for the Chinese traditional New Year," said Tiger. "Tomorrow is a big holiday, so I’m very happy. To see my family is just the best."
Team Sanya crossed the finish line in Sanya Bay at 19:35:17 local time, 12:35:17 UTC, after more than 14 days at sea completing the 3,051 nautical mile Leg 3 Stage 2 race from the Maldives to China.
Sanya receive five points after racing into a stopover for the first time in the race, bringing their total to 16 points. Team Telefónica, who completed a hat-trick of victories from the first three offshore legs when they led the fleet home on Saturday, are top of the overall standings with 95 points.
Despite being visibly exhausted, the crew of 11 were all smiles at the warmth of their rock-star like reception, which came complete with autograph requests and locals queuing for a photo opportunity.
Cameras flashed constantly as the team walked to the main stage on the red carpet path. More than 200 local performers joined the procession, including dozens of traditional drummers as well as lion and dragon dancers.
Skipper Mike Sanderson said bringing Sanya across the finish line of an off shore leg for the first time in the 2011-12 edition of the race was made all the more sweet by the home crowd.
"It’s amazing," said the New Zealander, who led ABN AMRO ONE to victory in the 2005-06 edition. "It’s late on a Sunday night here and the reception is amazing. Tiger steered for the last few hours and across the line and did an amazing job of it. He’s come such a long way."
Commenting on their sixth place finish Sandreson said he and his crew were disappointed not to have done better but would now refocus on improving their performance in the rest of the race.
“We’re competitive racers, we’re not here to sail around at the back of the fleet," he said. "We’ve got to look forward now. We’ve got lots of positives to take from and we can definitely get the boat going faster.
"I’m already looking forward to having another chance to race the other guys. I really feel this isn’t a true reflection of our performance and we need to get out there and have another go.”
Team Sanya’s race home wasn’t without adversity, with the team encountering a problem with the structure supporting two of their winches on Saturday.
Sanderson’s men were quick to respond and return to full speed in a north easterly monsoon, crossing the finish line more than 32 hours after leg winner Team Telefónica.
Feb 15 2012
Teams facing survival mode for race restart
Gale-force winds and deadly seas are set to make Sunday's Leg 4 start from Sanya the toughest leg start of this edition so far.
The race’s chief meteorologist Gonzalo Infante said the six Volvo Ocean Race crews would have no choice to but to enter “survival mode” if man and boat are to escape the early days of the 5,200 nautical mile race to Auckland unharmed.
“The weather conditions forming in the South China Sea at the moment will definitely provide the teams with the most challenging start to a leg so far,” Infante said.
“Conditions will be very dangerous, pushing man and boat close to the extreme.”
As is typical at this time of year, a monsoon is currently building to the north of Taiwan and by Saturday will have filled the whole of the South China Sea with north easterly winds of between 35 and 40 knots.
Although certainly testing, wind speed is not the issue, Infante explained. The real problem will be the sea state.
“Now only a very small area in the centre of the South China Sea is affected by big waves – from six to eight metres,” he added. “However, as we get closer to the start date, the affected area will grow until by Saturday the whole South China Sea will be affected by this sea state.
“The wave models also underestimate the size of waves on the continental shelf i.e. close to the land. On the continental shelf the depth goes from around 3,000 metres to 100 metres and often the waves can be more deadly there than offshore.
“This means the teams have no option to escape the big waves by heading north.”
With no escape route the crews will have no choice but to batten down the hatches and face whatever the weather gods throw at them as they punch east towards the Luzon Strait, the body of water separating Taiwan and the Philippine island of Luzon.
A low pressure system forming to the east of the Philippines is unlikely to develop into a tropical cyclone – but could help increase wind speed and wave height.
“The high wind speeds will mean the boats go quicker and in turn ‘jump’ off the huge waves, creating very dangerous conditions,” Infante said.
“Ultimately the teams will have to go into survival mode to make it through the South China Sea unscathed.”
Thanks to the mountain range protecting Sanya Bay from the north easterly monsoon winds, conditions for Saturday’s Sanya Haitang Bay In-Port Race should be perfect with decent breeze and flat seas.
“Offshore it will be a very different story,” Infante said. “Race Control is monitoring the situation very closely with weather updates every 30 minutes.
“Models predict the monsoon surge will be fully developed by Friday and will last until at least Tuesday. It is clear the conditions for the start of Leg 4 will be very rough, but it’s not clear how long the conditions will remain.”
Leg 4 from Sanya to Auckland is due to start at 1400 local time (0600 UTC) on Sunday, February 19.
Feb 18 2012
TELEFÓNICA EDGE PUMA IN SANYA SPECTACULAR, EXTEND OVERALL LEAD
Team Telefónica held off a fierce challenge from PUMA to win the Sanya Haitang Bay In-Port Race on Saturday and extend their overall lead to 18 points before the start of Leg 4 to Auckland.
Telefónica went into the race under some pressure after a last minute change of rigging and with two poor performances in the three previous in-port races. But a smart decision to drive hard right off the start line took them clear of the fleet and despite the relentless challenge of PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG they went on to seal another valuable win. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing took the third podium place.
It was the second victory in four in-port races for Iker Martínez’s men, who have also won all three offshore legs. CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand, their closest challengers in the overall standings, fought their way back up from sixth to fourth but it was a disappointing day for Chris Nicholson's team, who lost another three points to the leaders.
"Today the tactics were what made the difference," said Telefónica skipper Iker Martínez. "We were really in the right place for the upwind legs and the first downwind too. Even if we weren't great at manoeuvres, we were in the right place and that's what mattered."
PUMA skipper Ken Read was also satisfied with a performance that meant Telefónica could never quite be comfortable.
"We are pleased," said Read. "I think we did a really good job of it today. In a fleet like this we'll take second every day of the week."
Mike Sanderson’s hometown heroes on Team Sanya fought an incredible battle but were just edged into sixth by Franck Cammas’ Groupama sailing team.
Flat waters and winds gusting up to 20 knots provided perfect conditions for the fourth in-port race of the 2011-12 edition, allowing the teams to put on a spectacular show for the thousands of spectators who turned out to watch the action over a fast 10.8 nautical mile course.
Telefónica took the lead early, rounding the first mark with a 28-second lead over their rivals before a slow rounding at the second mark saw Ken Read’s PUMA close the gap to just three seconds.
For a while it was neck and neck and PUMA appeared set to pounce but Telefónica's superior speed saw them pull away and such was their dominance they were able to sail conservatively over the closing stages to ensure the win by a margin of 41 seconds. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing were four minutes and 20 seconds behind the leaders with CAMPER trailing by five minutes and 35 seconds.
The overall rankings remain unchanged. Telefónica now lead with 101 points, followed by CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand on 83 and Groupama sailing team on 73. PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG have 53, followed by Abu Dhabi on 43 and Team Sanya on 17.
Sunday sees the start of the 5,220 nautical mile Leg 4 from Sanya to Auckland at 1400 local time (0600 UTC). The leg start will be streamed live at www.volvooceanrace.com and www.livestream.com/volvooceanrace. Coverage will start 15 minutes prior to the race start.
Sanya Haitang Bay In-Port Race results:
1. Team Telefónica 58 minutes 37 seconds
2. PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG +0:41 seconds
3. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing +4 minutes 20 seconds
4. CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand +5:35
5. Groupama sailing team +6:51
6. Team Sanya: +7:13
Feb 18 2012
ORGANISERS SPLIT LEG 4 OVER SAFETY CONCERNS
Volvo Ocean Race organisers will split Leg 4 into two stages and hold the six boats in Sanya after Sunday's leg start to allow enough time for dangerous conditions to clear, with fears that waves of up to eight metres could wreak havoc with the fleet.
Race director Jack Lloyd informed the teams on Saturday that Leg 4 to Auckland would be split for reasons of safety after forecasts of unsailable conditions in the South China Sea.
The first stage will start as scheduled at 1400 local time (0600 GMT/UTC) and will see the boats complete an inshore course in Sanya Bay before sailing past the famous Guanyin Buddha of South China Sea statue and finishing at Sanya Bay lighthouse which marks the entrance to Sanya Marina.
The fleet will then wait until conditions are deemed safe enough for them to sail. The delay will not be for more than 24 hours.
The re-start will be staggered, with the boats leaving in the order they finish Stage 1.
"It could be that we re-start the in the hours of darkness on Monday morning," Lloyd told the teams.
Forecasts of winds gusting above 40 knots and waves of eight metres prompted the decision, according to Race CEO Knut Frostad.
"We will re-start the race some time on Monday and it could be in darkness," Frostad said. "Our delay will not be more than 24 hours.
"We are doing this because of the weather advice issued by experts both from our own Race HQ in Alicante and the teams' experts.
"They all believe we have conditions which will be dangerous up to 12-18 hours after the Leg start, with waves that can break boats if you sail into them."
He added: "This has been a very, very difficult decision for us which we've waited as long as possible to make so that we make the right one."
Iker Martínez, skipper of overall race leaders Team Telefónica, said he supported the decision.
"We have to trust those forecasts," the Spaniard said. "It was very difficult to make this decision but it is clearly a case of safety first and we don't want to go up against a wall."
Fresh in the minds of organisers were the problems suffered by the fleet in the Strait of Luzon in the last race, when most of the boats suffered serious damage in conditions described at the time as carnage.
The current edition has seen the fleet take plenty of knocks already, with Team Sanya, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG all forced to retire from Leg 1 because of damage. Team Sanya were also forced to make major repairs again in Madagascar in Leg 2, missing the shipping of the fleet through piracy-affected waters in the Indian Ocean.
Leg 4 is due to take the fleet 5,220 nautical miles to Auckland in New Zealand. No points will be awarded for the first stage of the leg.
Team Telefónica won Saturday's Sanya Haitang Bay In-Port Race and lead the overall standings with 101 points, followed by CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand on 83, Groupama sailing team on 73, PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG on 53, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing on 43 and Team Sanya on 17.