Closer…

Monday, October 2nd, 2017

Closer…

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Volvo Ocean Race on Twitter

Tuesday, August 8th, 2017

Volvo Ocean Race on Twitter:

DF passed MAPFRE in the last few miles and finished only a few boatlengths ahead. Woo! 😀

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For equal time, here’s my other favorite team (Dongfeng) from…

Tuesday, August 8th, 2017

For equal time, here’s my other favorite team (Dongfeng) from the previous Leg Zero race around the Isle of Wight. Again, lots of awesome onboard footage, this time with gusts in the 30s! I’m very much in awe of these people.

According to someone with good inside info, the reason DF dropped from a close second to fourth just before the finish in this race was one blown maneuver that resulted in a (brief) headsail fiasco. Wish there was footage of that, though I can understand it not being included, whether because the OBR didn’t happen to get it or because the sponsor isn’t looking for that kind of publicity.

But as a fan I’d watch that all day.

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My favorite team this time around is approaching Fastnet Rock in…

Monday, August 7th, 2017

My favorite team this time around is approaching Fastnet Rock in the lead (of the Volvo 65 race-within-a-race). Go Dongfeng! Woo!

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Calling it now. No but seriously. It’s a big world, and they’re…

Saturday, June 3rd, 2017

Calling it now.

No but seriously. It’s a big world, and they’re gonna be spending a lot of time in the Southern Ocean where anything can happen. But if you’re one of the other competitors you’d better get busy.

Source

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aeternamente replied to your photoset: Dongfeng Race Team training for the…

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017

Huh… when is this starting?

The start of Leg 1 (Alicante, Spain -> Lisbon, Portugal) will happen on October 22. So just under five months from now.

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Dongfeng Race Team training for the 2017/2018 Volvo Ocean Race.

Monday, May 29th, 2017

Dongfeng Race Team training for the 2017/2018 Volvo Ocean Race.

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The Volvo trans-Atlantic Leg 7 finish was at sunrise this…

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015

The Volvo trans-Atlantic Leg 7 finish was at sunrise this morning Lisbon time/late last night California time. All six boats finished within 4 hours of each other, with the order being: Brunel, MAPFRE, Alvimedica, Dongfeng, ADOR, SCA. Winds got super light in the last few miles, which made things interesting, especially in the battle for third place.

Dongfeng was solidly in third as they approached the land, but Alvimedica got better wind close to shore and managed to pass them. Then in the final beat to the finish under the boats’ masthead Code 0 headsails, Dongfeng initiated a tacking duel. Alvimedica had a poor tack that allowed Dongfeng to escape into better wind, and for a moment it looked like Dongfeng had retaken third place.

It was significant for the overall race standings, because Dongfeng is the closest to overall leader ADOR, so every boat they could put between themselves and ADOR would help them close the gap.

With one final tack to make for the finish line, though, Dongfeng had a disastrous tack that left them in irons, allowing Alvimedica to regain their lead and finish in third place a few minutes later. The live coverage missed the crucial moment when the problem occurred on Dongfeng, but they were getting live audio from my man-crush Yann Riou at the time, and it was heart-breaking to hear him describe what was happening. (Also hard to listen to was skipper Charles Caudrelier screaming in frustration.)

You can use this link to go straight to the climax:

Overall standings (low-point scoring) with two (short) legs remaining:

  1. ADOR: 16 pts
  2. Dongfeng: 21
  3. Brunel: 22
  4. MAPFRE: 26
  5. Alvimedica: 27
  6. SCA: 41
  7. Vestas: 52

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Dongfeng’s leg 6 OBR Sam Greenfield got great footage from his…

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

Dongfeng’s leg 6 OBR Sam Greenfield got great footage from his quadcopter drone while DF and ADOR were dueling off Block Island in the approach to the finish.

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anonsally asked “I, for one, would be interested to hear at least a little more about…”By…

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

anonsally
asked
“I, for one, would be interested to hear at least a little more about…”

By request. :-) But after a cut so those uninterested in my personal take on Leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race can sail on by.

This is the leg from Brazil to Newport, Rhode Island. They should be finishing early in the morning on Thursday, after a leg that’s been a pretty straightforward affair. No major injuries, no big storms.

Here’s 16 days of racing condensed into 30 seconds:

The size of the little boats gives you a sense of the scale of the tracker; big boats mean they’re all close together (within a few miles of each other). At maximum separation the trailing boat (SCA) was about 70 miles behind the leader, though they’ve since closed the gap to about 40 miles as the fleet sails into lighter winds off the East Coast.

SCA hung close to the leaders for a long time, and were actually the first boat across the equator. They had a bad couple of days as the fleet entered the floating weed of the Sargasso Sea, though; my guess is that their weed-clearing procedures (doing big S-curves, heeling the boat to windward, backing down, or jumping over the side to clear the weeds by hand) were less polished than those of the leading boats. And generally, they still seem to exhibit the same tendency to ease off the throttle somewhere around the end of the second week of the leg.

Discussing why this happens is a favorite topic among the obsessives at Sailing Anarchy. For the team’s biggest fans it’s an article of faith that they’ve been cruelly shafted by the International Jury that denied them the right to replace their Fractional Code Zero (one of their more important downwind sails) after destroying it on Leg 5. My take on that is yeah, it’s probably hurt them some, but 1) not as much as their most-ardent supporters believe; the repaired FR0 doesn’t appear to be that slow, and 2) taking care of the sails was always going to be a key factor the teams would compete on, given the limited-spares rule used for this edition of the race in order to hold costs down for the sponsors.

More significant, I think, is the team’s general lack of experience at this sort of racing. They’ve closed that gap a lot relative to the other teams, but there’s still a gap.

Ultimately, I think responsibility for the team’s failure to do better must be laid at the feet of skipper Sam Davies. Just as I felt skipper Chris Nicholson of Vestas Wind got off without being held properly accountable for the error that put that team on the reef, SCA’s skipper bears ultimate responsibility. She has to. That’s just how it works. She’s the final backstop, with a non-delegable duty to manage the overall operation of the boat. If they slow down relative to the other boats sometime around their third week at sea (which has happened on every leg), it’s up to Sam to figure out why and fix it. That it keeps happening makes it her fault, by definition.

I think what’s going on is that under the pressure of being at sea for that long, there’s an inevitable tendency to ease up and go into “cruising mode”. The skipper needs to counteract that by keeping up the pressure on the crew. But for Sam that’s doubly hard to do, because 1) her own previous racing experience has mostly been single-handed, where the emphasis is on conserving energy and not pushing too hard, and 2) her personality makes her an upbeat consensus-builder who tries to put a positive spin on every setback.

There have been hints of others on board who have chafed at her tendency to slip into this mode. But they’re not in charge.

Anyway, with the remaining three legs (especially the last two) being the shortest of the race, I think there’s a good chance for the team to get some better finishes before the end. I’m looking forward to seeing if they can do that.

At the front of the fleet, Dongfeng has continued to show their speed. ADOR is right behind them, though. At this point, given the point deficit they picked up when their mast broke on Leg 5, Dongfeng needs ADOR to give them some help by screwing up or having a gear failure in order to put some boats between them. There’s a lot of racing left, but with every mile it looks more and more like ADOR’s race to lose.

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Horace is the best.

Friday, April 24th, 2015

Horace is the best.

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Dongfeng has been partially dismasted, and is limping into shore…

Monday, March 30th, 2015

Dongfeng has been partially dismasted, and is limping into shore to try to make repairs. No one on board was hurt.

The four remaining lead boats are at or around Cape Horn, with Alvimedica having rounded first and ADOR having set a one-day distance record of 541 nautical miles. Astern, SCA continues to work their way east, being gradually overtaken by worsening weather.

It’s a three-ring circus in the Southern Ocean. Hope everyone stays safe.

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Making a pass, part 2Everyone who sails in the Southern Ocean…

Thursday, March 26th, 2015

Making a pass, part 2

Everyone who sails in the Southern Ocean talks about how fast conditions change. Storm systems track through like express trains, and a boat can be surfing in 50 knots of wind one moment, then flopping in near-drifting conditions a few hours later.

The fleet saw some of that last night, as the four lead boats all parked within a few miles of each other along the northern limit of the ice exclusion zone. Then, as they were gybing off to the north in a tight pack, the fifth-place boat, Dongfeng, can surging in and passed them in better wind to the south to take the lead. Go Dongfeng!

Meanwhile, SCA is bringing up the next system from behind, and has regained half the distance they lost in the aftermath of their bad knockdown. I hope they’ll be able to keep closing.

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A rough day in the Southern Ocean

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

High winds caught up with the Volvo fleet over the past day. There were some scary moments and torn sails, but no one was seriously hurt and all the boats are back racing. Details after a cut.

Four boats (at least) experienced uncontrolled crash gybes as they surfed at high speed on big waves. First it happened to ADOR, and then to MAPFRE, whose OBR Stefan Coppers posted this intense crash-cam video:

Rob Greenhalgh (Libby’s brother; the guy I pointed out in that leave-taking post the other day) was on the wheel at the time. You can see them surf down a big wave and stuff the bow at the bottom, causing the boat to pitchpole a little and spin out to port. The main gybes over, hanging up on the starboard running backstay, and they stop dead, pinned in position with the keel canted the wrong way.

You can see the crewmember who’d been on the mainsheet pedestal unclip his harness and start clambering around the cockpit, and Rob shouting for the engine to be started. (They need the engine so they can power up the hydraulics to cant the keel back to vertical.) Other things you can see during obsessive rewatching:

  • easing the sheet to let the headsail (the fractional Code Zero, or “FRO”) go forward
  • a cut after which the four-person watch on deck has been supplemented by the rest of the crew
  • easing of the starboard running backstay, allowing the main to go to leeward and the boat to start moving again
  • post-mortem commentary by Rob
  • sail repairs and re-hoisting the main

Dongfeng also did a crash gybe, though it was at night so their crash-cam footage wasn’t as compelling:

All three of those boats recovered relatively quickly from their crashes. The fourth boat, SCA, had a harder time when they suffered a series of mishaps around sunset yesterday.

Here’s their crash-cam footage:

It sounds like Sophie was thrown pretty violently across the boat during the gybe, but I think she’s saying that she was “afraid for her back”, and taking things slow, rather than saying she’d actually re-injured herself. Annie Lush got knocked down by a big wave a few days ago, and has been only gradually cycling back into standing watches, so the crew has definitely been banged up.

Sam gave more details during a satellite interview with Genny during today’s Inside Track episode:

Fifty-knot squalls with hail sounds intense.

SCA’s FRO was seriously damaged in the crash. Hopefully they’ll be able to repair it; it’s a crucial sail for running in medium to heavy air. They also broke one or more battens in the main, and apparently had the stack (the unused sails that they move around the boat for ballast) come partially free, such that it was dragging over the side for a while.

They ended up spending most of last night putting things back together and resting, only getting back up to full speed after sunrise. That sounds like a wise decision, given what they were dealing with, but the reality is that they dropped more than 100 miles behind the rest of the fleet by doing so. Here’s a tracker animation showing the time from their gybe to their recovery:

image

The boats should have lighter winds for a day or so as they pass the northernmost part of the iceberg exclusion zone. Then the wind should increase again as they push south toward Cape Horn. Here’s hoping they all stay safe.

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Dongfeng off East Cape, New Zealand, March 19, 2015. Source.

Thursday, March 19th, 2015

Dongfeng off East Cape, New Zealand, March 19, 2015. Source.

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Someone got helicopter shots as the fleet was leaving East Cape….

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

Someone got helicopter shots as the fleet was leaving East Cape. Ian Walker was quoted on the official ADOR twitter saying, “Hard reaching in 25-30kts, very wet on deck,fleet spread N-S”.

It could well be that this is the last we’ll see of the boats in terms of not-taken-by-them photography until after they’ve rounded Cape Horn. But for those onboard it’s just the beginning.

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Martin Strömberg, Dongfeng Race Team. Source.Martin has rounded…

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

Martin Strömberg, Dongfeng Race Team. Source.

Martin has rounded Cape Horn twice during previous Volvos; once while winning leg 5 on Ericsson 3 with Magnus Olsson in 2009, and then on overall winner Groupama with skipper Franck Cammas and current Dongfeng skipper Charles Caudrelier in 2012.

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Sam was a good replacement, but I’m so glad Yann is back on…

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

Sam was a good replacement, but I’m so glad Yann is back on Dongfeng as OBR.

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Cheesy editing and soundtrack, but I’m happy about the…

Sunday, March 8th, 2015

Cheesy editing and soundtrack, but I’m happy about the news that Yann will be back as Dongfeng’s OBR on leg 5. Sam did a great job as his replacement for the last two legs, though.

Pascal will be returning as navigator in place of Erwan Israel, and Irish superstar sailor Damien Foxall will join the crew, replacing Thomas Rouxell.

There will be two Chinese sailors on leg 5, Yang Jiru (Wolf), and one other to be named by the time of the Auckland in-port race on March 14. Chen Jin Hao (Horace) was skipper Charles Caudrelier’s first choice, but apparently Horace has a health issue that is still being evaluated.

More here: Dongfeng Crew Changes.

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Yay! The pink boat has friends again! (And the orange boat is…

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

Yay! The pink boat has friends again! (And the orange boat is pissed.)

Here’s the last day and a half in the tracker. The boats are working their way toward the equator, and though they haven’t reached the doldrums proper they’ve started encountering big convection clouds that suck up the wind, handing out gains and losses on a more or less random basis.

Brunel, having cashed in their northerly gauge to get in front of the fleet, still leads, with ADOR and Alvimedica doing their best to catch them.

Toward the back the three trailing boats have taken a more northerly line. So far it hasn’t done them much good, but who knows?

The big news for me is that SCA is back in contact with some other boats. They’re right on the edge of AIS range with Mapfre ahead of them and Dongfeng behind. It’s a great opportunity for them to get continuous feedback and raise their boatspeed game. Go SCA!

But aboard Dongfeng, being in last place for the first time in the race does not sit well. In the latest video from the boat we see the latest in a string of gear problems (the mainsail track is pulling away from the mast, like what happened to them on leg 2 but higher up). Add that to the big cloud that stomped on them early in the gif animation above, and things really haven’t gone their way. Sam got a shot of Charles banging his hand on the binnacle and cursing that I don’t think was staged; and in his (Sam’s) latest blog post he writes:

Today feels like we’re strapped in the back seat of the family wagon on a road trip to … the bottom of the world.

It’s been a long trip because dad took a wrong turn. Then we got a flat. The radiator overheated and now we’re praying mom will do something miraculous.

Like calm down dad.

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