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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.”

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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.

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

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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.

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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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First win for MAPFRE in Volvo Ocean Race

Saturday, October 14th, 2017

First win for MAPFRE in Volvo Ocean Race:

a-solitary-sea-rover:

Alicante, Spain (October 14, 2017) – The local heroes on Xabi Fernàndez’s MAPFRE were a popular winner when they won the first In-Port Race of the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race.

Fernàndez and his team made a bold call at the start to duck behind the entire fleet in order to sail up what turned out to be the favoured right hand side of the course, coming from behind to earn a narrow lead at the first gate.

The video of the race was streamed on Facebook, which is a little disappointing because the FB video player is inferior to YouTube. Hard to obsess properly when the fullscreen video gets way pixellated. :-)

But yay for MAPFRE! The in-port standings only count if needed for a tiebreaker in terms of the overall race, but this is real (finally). And now it’s less than a week until the first ocean leg starts.

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a-solitary-sea-rover: lies: I haven’t been obsessing publicly…

Wednesday, October 11th, 2017

a-solitary-sea-rover:

lies:

I haven’t been obsessing publicly over it, but the Volvo boats just had another non-scoring pre-race race (the “Prologue”, not to be confused with the previously completed “Leg 0”). This race was from Lisbon, Portugal to Alicante, Spain.* Basically it’s a preview of the upcoming Leg 1, except sailed in reverse.

There were light winds nearly the whole way, with just a bit of a breeze as they entered the Mediterranean through the Straits of Gibraltar. MAPFRE got an early lead and never gave it up, and at one point they and Brunel extended by going inside and picking up a land breeze while the other five boats stayed parked offshore.  After that it was a match race between those two boats.

I love this video of them crossing the finish line. Things I love about it:

  • How low-key they all are. This was a really slow, intense, difficult race, and they’re all exhausted. But it’s the good kind of exhausted. 🙂
  • My unproblematic fave Sophie.
  • Speaking of low-key: Check out how on-board reporter Jen Edney (the only woman among the OBRs) included a shot of Xabi talking about the race that just happens to include Támara Echegoyen in the background hiking up her foulies after (one assumes) peeing off the stern. It’s just a little thing. But the more I think about it the more cool I think it is. You want an example of real equality? This is what it looks like.

Ten days until the race proper starts. Closer…

¡Vamos MAPFRE!

* Technically they ended the race early, at Cabo de Gata, due to the light winds. Now they’re all motoring to Alicante.

I just noticed Xabi and Pablo have their first names on their shirts while the others have their last names.

I wondered if that was due to length of the names (i.e., not having room to stencil the whole last name). If you order all of them by length you get:

  • Cuervas-Mons (12)
  • Greenhalgh (10)
  • Echegoyen (9)
  • Fernández (9)
  • McDonald (8)
  • Altadill (8)
  • Sinclair (8)
  • Arrarte (7)
  • Ciszek (6)
  • Tuke (4)
  • Vila (4)

So that doesn’t support my name-length theory very well. Maybe it’s just a personal preference thing, and speaks more to a low-key approach to leadership that Xabi and Pablo have? Rob is listed as the other watch captain, and his should have his first name under either theory, but I think his say “Greenhalgh.” So who knows?

I’m guessing it falls into the “not important enough to have a policy” category. And like having Sophie and Támara working the grinders and moving the stack (and casually peeing off the stern on-camera) alongside the rest of the crew, I just really like the casual vibe that comes across about what it’s like aboard their boat.

It’s easy to look relaxed when you’re winning, and it will be interesting to see if the mood on the boat changes when they face more adversity (like MAPFRE did on Leg 1 in the 2014/15 race). Whatever system they have for determining what is and isn’t important enough to worry about, though, it seems to be working so far. 🙂

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I haven’t been obsessing publicly over it, but the Volvo…

Wednesday, October 11th, 2017

I haven’t been obsessing publicly over it, but the Volvo boats just had another non-scoring pre-race race (the “Prologue”, not to be confused with the previously completed “Leg 0”). This race was from Lisbon, Portugal to Alicante, Spain. Basically it’s a preview of the upcoming Leg 1, except sailed in reverse.

There were light winds nearly the whole way, with just a bit of a breeze as they entered the Mediterranean through the Straits of Gibraltar. MAPFRE got an early lead and never gave it up, and at one point they and Brunel extended by going inside and picking up a land breeze while the other five boats stayed parked offshore.  After that it was a match race between those two boats.

I love this video of them crossing the finish line. Things I love about it:

  • How low-key they all are. This was a really slow, intense, difficult race, and they’re all exhausted. But it’s the good kind of exhausted. 🙂
  • My unproblematic fave Sophie.
  • Speaking of low-key: Check out how on-board reporter Jen Edney (the only woman among the OBRs) included a shot of Xabi talking about the race that just happens to include Támara Echegoyen in the background hiking up her foulies after (one assumes) peeing off the stern. It’s just a little thing. But the more I think about it the more cool I think it is. You want an example of real equality? This is what it looks like.

Ten days until the race proper starts. Closer…

¡Vamos MAPFRE!

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MAPFRE complete 2017-18 squad with signing of another America’s Cup ace

Friday, September 8th, 2017

MAPFRE complete 2017-18 squad with signing of another America’s Cup ace:

a-solitary-sea-rover:

MAPFRE have completed their squad for the 2017-18 edition of the Volvo Ocean Race, announcing a last minute addition – America’s Cup sailor Louis Sinclair* – at a presentation in Sanxenxo, Spain.

The Antiguan athlete joins a team led by skipper Xabi Fernández and featuring six nationalities.

The team were formally presented at the Real Club Náutico de Sanxenxo on Thursday, at en event attended by Spain’s former King Juan Carlos I** and Princess Elena.

The fifth consecutive Spanish Volvo Ocean Race campaign put together by Pedro Campos, MAPFRE could become the first ever Spanish winner of the race in 2017-18, and begins the edition as one of the pre-race favourites for the trophy.

Xabi, who is making his fifth appearance in the race, is joined by watch leaders Pablo Arrarte and Rob Greenhalgh; navigator Joan Vila; Antonio ‘Ñeti’ Cuervas-Mons, Willy Altadill, Sophie Ciszek, Támara Echegoyen, Neal McDonald, and America’s Cup winner Blair Tuke – who could become the first sailor in history to win the Triple Crown.

“This time the race returns to its Southern Ocean roots, and that is a great incentive for us – as sailors, we like it very much,” said Xabi. “The Southern Ocean is always dangerous, and it’s necessary to retain a balance between pushing and being conservative, but this time we will have extra incentive to push as hard as we can because these legs and the transatlantic score double points.”

*You may remember Sinclair from this video he made with his roommate, Tom Johnson… Yay!

**Several of the Spanish royal family have competed as Olympic sailors, including former King Juan Carlos I, Queen Sofia, and current King Felipe. 

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