Hang OnTurn the Tide on Plastic, Volvo Ocean Race, 2017-11-05….

Monday, November 6th, 2017

Hang On

Turn the Tide on Plastic, Volvo Ocean Race, 2017-11-05. Source

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Vestas exits the MedAs of October 24, 2017, Vestas 11th Hour…

Tuesday, October 24th, 2017

Vestas exits the Med

As of October 24, 2017, Vestas 11th Hour Racing leads the 7-boat fleet on Leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race. [Source]

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Race officials finally posted the full replay of the Alicante…

Monday, October 16th, 2017

Race officials finally posted the full replay of the Alicante in-port race on YouTube, though apparently they kept it hidden for a while, which confuses me, but whatever. Commentary after a cut to preserve the dashboards of the non-obsessed.

Boats designed to surf monster waves in the Southern Ocean aren’t the easiest things to get around a short windward-leeward course in 8 knots of wind. But for me this race was surprisingly exciting to watch for one reason: The whole thing was basically over before the starting gun went off.

I’ve linked to that point in the video (around 8:31). Analysis with screenshots follows.

Here’s a helicopter shot with 1:26 to go:


The wind is blowing from the right. That powerboat sitting by itself toward the lower right is the race committee boat that marks the right end of the starting line; the tiny yellow dot above it is the inflatable buoy that marks the left end of the line.

The seven Volvo 65s are easy to recognize because of their sponsor graphics. Lining up on starboard tack in that group in the lower left, AkzoNobel is in front with the purple and blue sails. They were skippered in this race by navigator Jules Salter, because previous skipper Simeon Tienpont quit/was fired a few days earlier. (There are dueling press releases and much drama; it’s all still playing out as of Monday.)

Scallywag is the boat closest to the camera with the gray sails and the red and white swoosh. Vestas/11th Hour is the light blue main with the dark blue stripe and the white headsail, and Dongfeng is the red and gray sails beyond them.

Coming toward us to the left of them on port tack is Brunel, whose strategy apparently was to swoop in behind the other boats and tack onto starboard at the last minute. But tacking one of these boats with a Masthead Code 0 in light winds is a tricky maneuver.

Just coming into view in the extreme lower left is Turn the Tide on Plastic (TTToP), skippered by Goofball Boat Mom Dee Caffari. They haven’t even unrolled their Code 0 yet. But that’s fine; the boats in front of them are early and will have to kill time.

Way up at the other end of the line, that little red mainsail is MAPFRE. Like TTToP they haven’t unrolled their headsail yet. They’re just hanging out, jogging slowly toward the pin end of the line. The race commentators are going to offer them premature condolences in a minute. But with the benefit of hindsight, looking at this image: They’ve already won.


With 1:11 to go, Brunel is making their tack. They’re slow rolling up the headsail (a requirement for tacking the Masthead 0), though, and it’s going to hurt them badly. On TTToP, Boat Mom has unrolled her headsail and is starting to move into view in the lower left. Meanwhile, MAPFRE is still just chilling out there at the far end of the line.


With less than a minute to go, AkzoNobel is bearing off to avoid being over early. Vestas has them pinned to leeward, though, so there’s not a lot of room. Brunel is head to wind with their headsail furled. It’s been 13 seconds since the last screenshot, which means this tack is taking them a long time. Boat Mom is diving down to try to squeeze in to leeward of Scallywag.

MAPFRE still hasn’t unrolled their headsail.


At 47 seconds to go, the four starboard-tack boats closest to the line are all reaching off to avoid being over early.

MAPFRE’s just hanging out. Um, guys (and gals): You realize there’s a race today, right?


Thirty-seven seconds to go. The three lead starboard tack boats are a mess. Dongfeng has the right of way as leeward boat, and is holding the other two up toward the line rather than giving them acceleration room. Scallywag is diving down to prevent Boat Mom getting a leeward overlap and doing the same thing to them. Brunel has completed their tack, but they’re so far below the line and in such disturbed air from all the shenanigans ahead of them that they’re basically stuck in the water.

Aboard MAPFRE they finally have a headsail, yay! But that’s not all they’ve got:

  • They’re right up on the starting line, rather than 3-5 boatlengths to leeward of it like the other boats. In these conditions that’s huge.
  • They’ve got clear air.
  • They’ve got an open stretch of water into which they can accelerate.
  • They’ve got a position that in a minute is going to give them the right side of the racecourse, where they’ve (correctly) predicted the wind is going to be stronger during the coming beat.

On the other hand they’re on port tack, and every other boat has the right of way, so they’re basically going to have to duck the entire fleet. But given all the advantages listed above, it’s worth it.


Thirty seconds. The lead group of starboard tackers has hardened up for the line, though they’re still a little early. Each of them is trying to create a gap to leeward into which they can accelerate. But since they’re all trying to do it in the same place none of them is being particularly successful.

Meanwhile, MAPFRE is reaching off with the Masthead 0 trimmed for speed.


Twenty seconds. The leading five starboard tackers are all using whatever gap they have to try to build speed. Brunel is still stuck to leeward.

MAPFRE has started to bear away to go below the starboard tackers. It’s a controlled maneuver, though, unlike the speed-killing gyrations the other boats are doing.


Ten seconds. The starboard-tackers are all hardening up for the line. Brunel is basically parked.

It’s hard to see them, but MAPFRE is screaming in (relatively speaking) on port tack, aiming to shave the sterns of the fleet.

Here’s what that moment looked like from MAPFRE’s perspective, courtesy of the video they posted to Twitter:


They’re approaching Dongfeng, the lead boat in the starboard-tackers. Antonio Cuervas-Mons (”Ñeti”) is on the bow. As bowman his job is to tell the helmsman (Pablo Arrarte) where to go, because it’s easier to judge the distances from the bow.

The closed-fist gesture means “hold your course.” The wind-it-up gesture means “go for it; head closer to the starting line.”


Ñeti calling the duck of AkzoNobel. This is a key moment. Looking around the front of the headsail, Ñeti sees something that Pablo on the helm can’t see: Brunel is going so slowly that a gap has opened up in front of them, and MAPFRE has a chance to squeeze through. So Ñeti gives the wind-it-up sign: go for it.


That same moment, two seconds before the starting gun, from the helicopter’s perspective.


MAPFRE charging through the gap just after the gun. They’re now in disturbed air, but only for a few seconds, and the speed they’ve built up lets them punch through.


And they’re off, heading away from the fleet in clear air toward the stronger wind on the right. When the fleet comes back together at the top mark MAPFRE is ahead, and with mistake-free sailing they never give up the lead.

And that, long-suffering readers, is how you win a boat race before it’s even started.

¡Vamos MAPFRE! 😀

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¡Vamos MAPFRE!The 2017-18 edition of the Volvo Ocean Race won’t…

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017

¡Vamos MAPFRE!

The 2017-18 edition of the Volvo Ocean Race won’t start until October, but the pre-race “Leg Zero” series got under way today. Seven Volvo 65s raced as a class in the Around the Island Race, circling the Isle of Wight as part of Cowes Week. Spanish entry MAPFRE, with skipper Xabi Fernández, was the winner, setting a monohull course record of 3h 13m 11s.

I still think Dongfeng (which came in fourth today) has the best chance to win the race around the world. But I can’t not cheer for MAPFRE, given that my favorite sailor from the last edition has a spot on the boat. 🙂

Next up: The 600-mile Fastnet Race, which starts this Sunday, August 6.

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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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Volvo Ocean Race newsThere will be another VOR beginning a year…

Sunday, October 16th, 2016

Volvo Ocean Race news

There will be another VOR beginning a year or so from now, and there’s a good chance I’ll be obsessing over that one, too. After a cut is a discussion of some of the changes that have been announced.

Race Leadership

The race will be run by a new CEO, Mark Turner, who was one of the main forces behind the Chinese/French Dongfeng team in the last race. I’m excited about that because in the last race it was Dongfeng that did the best job of sharing lots of detail about what was happening on the boat, not restricting the flow of information due to sponsor concerns nor dumbing things down for a non-sailing audience. From what I can tell that was because of Mark, and there are signs that he’ll be doing the same thing across the fleet in the next race.

The Route

The 2017-18 Volvo will not include a Middle East stopover, nor will it send racers through the Strait of Malacca on their way to China, as they did last time. Instead they’ll start with a short leg from Alicante to Lisbon, then will race south through the Atlantic to Cape Town. After that will come a real monster of a leg, from Cape Town through the Indian Ocean to Bass Strait, then north to Hong Kong. Leg 4 will send them back south to Auckland, Leg 5 will head across the southern Pacific around Cape Horn and then north to Itajaí, and Leg 6 will take them to Newport. All three of those legs are more or less the same as last time.

They’ll cross the Atlantic to a stopover in Cardiff, thence to Gothenburg, and finally will finish the race at The Hague.

Competitors sound excited about the new route. Southern Ocean sailing is what the Volvo (formerly the Whitbread) has always been about, so having more of that should be fun.

Women Competitors

One of coolest thing about the race last time was that an all-woman crew was competing head-to-head with the male teams. Sadly, Swedish paper-products company SCA has pulled out, so the sailors from Team SCA who want to build on what they did last time have had to scramble for new sponsorship.

In the last few weeks the Volvo announced new crew rules that should make it easier for them to participate in the next race. Basically, if you want to do the race with an all-male team, you’ll only be allowed 7 crewmembers. But you’ll be able to add 1 or 2 women for a total crew of 8 or 9. If you do a gender-balanced crew you can have 10 (5 and 5). Or, if you do an all-woman crew (as SCA did last time) you can have 11. Crew configurations can be changed from leg to leg.

The general view is that 7 sailors is too few to race a Volvo 65 competitively, so teams will be incentivized to include women in their crew. Without this rule change it was looking like there might not be any women sailors in the next race. With it, they’ll not only be competing, but they’ll have the chance to sail in mixed crews alongside the most-experienced Volvo sailors, which should help them in their quest to be more competitive than they were last time.

On Board Reporters (OBRs)

This time around the OBR (the single crewmember who doesn’t help sail, but just cooks and documents what’s happening on the boat) won’t be paid by the individual team sponsor, but instead will work directly for the race organizers themselves. The hope is that this will mean OBRs will be more free to tell their stories than they have been in the past. For example, in the 2014-15 there was relatively little video from the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing boat that ended up being the overall winner. As far as I could tell it wasn’t that Matt Knighton, the ADOR OBR, was any less accomplished than the other OBRs. It was just that the team sponsor didn’t particularly feel like sharing that video, so fans rarely saw it.

Similarly, one of the more dramatic incidents in the race was when SCA had a bad knockdown on Leg 5 shortly before reaching Cape Horn and essentially stopped racing for a few days, backing way off the throttle and sailing more conservatively until they reached easier conditions in the south Atlantic. Fans could infer some of what was happening from the race’s tracker app, but there was a noticeable blackout in terms of video coming off the boat, possibly because the sponsor didn’t feel like that particular drama reflected well on their brand.

Dongfeng was the gold standard in the last race in terms of letting fans actually see what was happening on the boat. If the same philosophy is going to be applied to the whole fleet next time, it’s going to be great to watch.

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afremov-art: Meeting in the water. The Captioner:Is the…

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016


Meeting in the water.

The Captioner:

Is the AP flag still up? (a few seconds later) Yup. Still up.

j/k. The Captioner for reals:

“Something Special” by photographer Larry Gallier, showing the postponed start of the Des Moines January Regatta, January 2, 2010. From an accompanying shot:

Last Saturday, after I took the dogs for their walk, I drove past the Des Moines Marina to see if anything was going on. Turns out there were fifty boats out in the water with their sails out, but no wind. It was a wonderful, mostly overcast morning, very mild temperatures, but not wonderful if you had your sailboat out for a race. Anyway I drove back to the house, dropped the dogs off, and grabbed my camera, went back down to the marina and the boats hadn’t moved at all. When the sun broke out, low in the southern horizon, and light up the sails, I got this shot.

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