Foam-up conditions and 30-plus knot boat speeds for Volvo Ocean Race fleet out of Lisbon to Cape Town
Dongfeng Race Team converted a strong start into the early lead as the Volvo Ocean Race fleet set off on a 7,000-mile Leg 2 from Lisbon to Cape Town this afternoon, the first true ocean test of the race.
After setting out from the Portuguese capital in a 15-20 knot northerly, once past the protection of Cascais the fleet were into 30-plus knot conditions with a 4-metre swell, giving a fast and challenging first night at sea.
“It’s going to be fast,” said Dongfeng skipper Charles Caudrelier. “We have been preparing for this, training in strong winds for six months, so I hope we are ready. We have some good drivers in these conditions so I hope we will be fast.”
“The real race starts now,” said Xabi Fernández, the skipper of MAPFRE. “Today we will sail in a couple of days in heavy winds. Everyone will be competitive so we’ll need to go as fast as we can.”
Going into the first night it was the pre-race favourites of Mapfre, Dongfeng and Brunel taking the early lead on the leaderboard as the most southerly boats. However, the real gains will be for the teams which can get west in preparation for crossing the Doldrums, calling for a series of big breeze gybes for the fleet in the early stages of this leg.
The tactical options on the leg have been opened up this year by the removal of the traditional waypoint at the island of Fernando de Noronha, 170 miles off the coast of Brazil. This gives navigators the option of taking a much more direct, easterly track to Cape Town, although current forecasts suggest that few boats are likely to risk it with a large
One of the first tactical challenges will be negotiating the island of Madeira and the acceleration zones around it. The Volvo Ocean Race’s excellent new @RaceExperts twitter feed runs regular updates on developing wind conditions and race strategy.
Brunel go into Leg 2 with just two points after a disappointing 6th in Leg 1. But they came back to their expected form in the Lisbon in-port race, which they won after a eventful round-the-cans race that saw the early lead taken between Turn the Tide on Plastic, conditions ranging from sun to white-out squalls, close port-starboard crosses, and several bow crew taking a pummelling.
However, many teams will have been watching Mapfre closely – widely touted as having the best boat speed in the fleet, the Spanish red boat showed a blistering turn of speed on the final leg of the in-port, closing to less than half a boat length on the finish line behind Brunel.
In between the finish of Leg 1 in Lisbon and Leg 2 start there have been some personnel changes on board a couple of teams.
Team AkzoNobel, which had such a bizarre start to the race with skipper Simeon Tienpont sacked then reinstated on the morning of the start, has set out with a full complement of nine crew for the second leg.
Tienpont remains as skipper. Navigator Jules Salter, who was one of several key members of the team to step off the boat in Alicante, returns to race for Leg 2. Five-time Volvo Ocean Race competitor Chris Nicholson from Australia, who at one point was rumoured to be taking over from Tienpont, has now joined the team as watch captain. Former Olympic and America’s Cup sailor Peter van Niekerk has also joined the squad.
Brad Jackson, who was briefly named skipper before the start in Alicante having previously been one of the watch captains, is not on the boat to Cape Town. Antonio Fontes, who was ‘loaned’ from the Scallywag team to AkzoNobel for Leg 1, returns to his Australian squad but won’t be racing for Leg 2.
And if you’re still following, Roberto ‘Chuny’ Bermúdez de Castro Muñoz, who was previously signed to AkzoNobel but left the team in September, has now joined Vestas 11th Hour Racing, further bolstering the team which won Leg 1.