Making a passThe fleet has been left behind by the winds of…

Making a pass

The fleet has been left behind by the winds of former Typhoon Pam, and now they’re in lighter, southeasterly/southerly winds, doing their best to position themselves for the next low-pressure system due to track east across the Southern Ocean next week.

Something interesting happened today that I don’t remember seeing at any previous point in the race: SCA passed a top competitor (actually, two top competitors). And they did it not only with good tactics, but with boatspeed.

The gif above summarizes about 18 hours of racing. At the beginning SCA is behind Dongfeng and MAPFRE. At the end of it they’re ahead of them. And especially on that last starboard tack, it really looks like they’re pulling away not because they’re in better wind, but just because they’re sailing faster. At the end they’re more than 10 miles ahead of Dongfeng, having pulled out of AIS range.

That’s huge. MAPFRE was the winner of the most-recent leg, and Dongfeng of the leg before that. SCA has been closing the gap on the more-experienced crews, figuring out how to push harder and get that last drop of speed. And this is just one moment, with a lot of racecourse to go; I’m sure there will be setbacks. But for now they must be so excited.

It brings to mind something I saw one of their coaches (I think?) say in a dockside interview in Auckland: This is the leg they trained for. Not that the warm tradewinds of the Canary Islands are anything like the Southern Ocean. But in terms of sailing swiftly, safely, and efficiently in rough conditions, this was their focus for more than a year. Heading off to round Cape Horn with a crew made up largely of people with only limited offshore experience, I think it was the right focus. But it left them with a deficit compared to the more-experienced teams at things like light-air boatspeed and maintaining their intensity over weeks of uninterrupted racing.

They’ve been doing better on each leg, getting closer and closer to the back of the fleet. Now they’re legitimately in it.

Go SCA! :-)

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Tags: vor, volvo ocean race, weareteamsca, gifs.

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