Countdown to Volvo Ocean Race >> Scuttlebutt Sailing News

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

Countdown to Volvo Ocean Race >> Scuttlebutt Sailing News:

a-solitary-sea-rover:

On October 22 at 1200 UTC, the longest endurance race in the world begins, the Volvo Ocean Race. Libby Greenhalgh, who was navigator for Team SCA in the 2014-15 edition, shares insight as the seven teams prepare for this eight month challenge.

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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:

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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?

image

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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Annalise Murphy on Twitter

Thursday, October 12th, 2017

Annalise Murphy on Twitter:

tfw one sail on your new boat weighs more than your whole last boat. 😜

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jaeschkethomas:Martine Grael aka RAINHA DOS OCEANOS…

Thursday, October 12th, 2017

jaeschkethomas:

Martine Grael aka RAINHA DOS OCEANOS
#martinegrael #teamakzonobel #volvooceanrace #brazil #brasil #rio2016 #goldmedalist #photooftheday #happy #girlpower

Someone on the SA forums the other day commented that she probably had an “in” making the team because of who her dad is. To which someone else replied that she didn’t need an “in” and also wtf is wrong with you? Which pretty much sums up the SA forums.

She’s a world champion and Olympic gold medalist. And yeah, she’s also a *second-generation* gold medalist, but you have to be a particular kind of dense to think that’s how she got her ride.

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karro6ped:#volvooceanrace

Thursday, October 12th, 2017

karro6ped:

#volvooceanrace

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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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‘This is just the start’

Wednesday, October 4th, 2017

‘This is just the start’:

a-solitary-sea-rover:

A five-time Volvo Ocean Race veteran and passionate ocean conservationist, there isn’t much Irish sailor Damian Foxall hasn’t done when it comes to sailing.

Having won the trophy in 2011-12 with Groupama, he jumped onboard Dongfeng for the latter stages of 2014-15 – and races with Vestas 11th Hour Racing in 2017-18.

His mission? To help the team – led by Charlie Enright and Mark Towill – to make a big impact both on and off the water. The campaign aims to lead sustainability through the Volvo Ocean Race, and part of that saw 11th Hour Racing facilitate a race-wide Sustainability Training day in Lisbon, which was attended by over 100 sailors, shore crew, stakeholders and industry experts.

Hi Damian! The Sustainability Training was a great event and a unique thing to see an entire sports organisation come together in this way with one goal. You must be really encouraged by the way that this has been embraced across the board…

Absolutely, and this is just the start. One of the girls from our team said it really well – we’re here to do our very best to win the Volvo Ocean Race, and also here to be the most sustainable team in the event. As well as doing all of that, we want to do something that is much bigger than this event, or the sport, and genuinely leave a legacy, and an event like today’s is a great start. We have a worldwide platform and we’re privileged to interact with. What a super opportunity.

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Race Experts on Twitter

Wednesday, October 4th, 2017

Race Experts on Twitter:

Closer…

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Closer…

Monday, October 2nd, 2017

Closer…

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I’m on the record as being a non-fan of the “2-minute music…

Monday, September 18th, 2017

I’m on the record as being a non-fan of the “2-minute music video” approach to Volvo Ocean Race media. But this is an exception. I really like this one.

It turns out what I dislike is bad 2-minute music videos. (Okay and also, not being able to figure out what’s going on because the action has been cut up too much to watch what is, you know, an actual sport.) But this one isn’t like that.

The race village in Alicante, Spain opens on October 11. The first in-port race will be on October 14. And the first ocean leg (a relatively quick dash out the Mediterranean to Lisbon, Portugal) starts on October 22.

Closer…

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Everything you need to know about the Assembly Period

Sunday, September 17th, 2017

Everything you need to know about the Assembly Period:

a-solitary-sea-rover:

You might have noticed that the Volvo Ocean Race teams have been chalking up plenty of miles recently. Well, with the Assembly Period starting on Monday 18 September, it’s their last chance to get to grips with the boat for a couple of weeks.

So what is an Assembly Period, and why do we need it? It’s a mandatory part of the pre-race preparation, when all teams must report to the Boatyard facility in Lisbon, Portugal, so their boats can be lifted out of the water and given a final once over before the start of another ocean marathon.

[Blatant but amusing product placement that you can see for yourself at the link]

With nearly 9,000 nautical miles until the next big service in Cape Town, the Boatyard will do a lot more than just kick the tyres. The masts will all come out to be scanned by non-destructive testing specialists to confirm that the challenging Leg Zero racing didn’t leave any lasting effects.

To guarantee the best level of service the Boatyard uses the original manufacturers to maintain the equipment on the Volvo Ocean 65s. 

In short, the Boatyard becomes a dusty, oily version of the United Nations and the core staff jumps from 20 to 55 during the intensive maintenance periods.

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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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Oh wow oh wow oh wow. I’ve been a fan of Annalise since…

Friday, September 8th, 2017

Oh wow oh wow oh wow. I’ve been a fan of Annalise since her incredible (ultimately, kind of heart-breaking) performance at the London Olympics in 2012, and then through her silver medal in Rio. She’s awesome! I’m so excited to get the chance to see her race the Volvo.

I now have three favorite teams. 😀 (Eh, technically I was already a fan of Dee and TTToP. But now they’re right up at the top of the list with MAPFRE and Dongfeng.)

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The winner and still champion.

Saturday, August 26th, 2017

The winner and still champion.

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a-solitary-sea-rover: I’m with Henrique.

Saturday, August 26th, 2017

a-solitary-sea-rover:

I’m with Henrique.

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Xabi Fernández, mejor regatista del año

Friday, August 25th, 2017

Xabi Fernández, mejor regatista del año

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MAPFRE continue Leg Zero dominance

Sunday, August 13th, 2017

MAPFRE continue Leg Zero dominance:

a-solitary-sea-rover:

MAPFRE maintained their near-faultless performance in Volvo Ocean Race qualifying – and gave themselves the best possible chance of completing overall victory in the Leg Zero series – as they led the fleet over the finish line on a short opening stage of the final race out of Saint-Malo.

Extended periods of extremely light weather meant that the Saint-Malo to Lisbon leg had to be split into two parts.

As expected, the Volvo Ocean 65s stayed tightly bunched on the first of those, a drag race towards Le Grand Lejon. Vestas 11th Hour Racing were neck-and-neck with MAPFRE for the lead, with the Spanish side just pipping them to the line.

Dongfeng Race Team grabbed third ahead of Turn the Tide on Plastic and team AkzoNobel. Preliminary unofficial results gave Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag and Team Brunel the same time, with less than a mile between the first and last teams in the seven-boat fleet.

Now that the teams have completed their ‘Sunday drive’ – a 25nm sprint in just 10 knots – they can prepare for the restart which will begin from Chaussé de Sein at 0900 UTC on Monday. It will be a staggered start based on the finishing deltas from Sunday.

The fleet will start with light south easterlies that will quickly die and then come back from the west. This will be a critical transition to manage as the whole race course will favour the leaders and punish the stragglers.

The fleet will negotiate the passage of a cold front early Tuesday morning and the new wind will set them up for a downwind drag race towards Cape Finisterre, the northwestern tip of Spain. It will be a race for their competitive lives – with light winds chasing them as a ridge of high pressure again pushes into the normally tempestuous Bay of Biscay.

¡Vamos MAPFRE! 😀👍

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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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