Archive for 'Volvo Ocean Race'

VOR: ABN Amro One Wins Mid-Atlantic Gate

Posted by John Callender on November 22nd, 2005 at 6:31 am

ABN AMRO One does a bow-plant

ABN AMRO One has led the way through the mid-Atlantic “gate” of the Volvo Ocean Race’s first leg at the Ilha de Fernando de Noronha. Details from Yachting World: First points for ABN AMRO 1.

Ericsson, which has been coming on strong in the last few days, was second through the gate. Combined with the points from her in-port win in Spain, that means that if the current positions hold up at the finish of Leg One in Cape Town, Ericsson will actually have a one-point lead over ABN AMRO One at that point.

Still, it’s early to be talking about finishing positions for Leg One. There’s still a lot of very rough water for these boats to go over (or through, as in this very cool image of ABN AMRO One by Jon Nash, and run here courtesy of the offical ABN AMRO site).

VOR: ABN AMRO 1 Leads; Details on Pirates, Movistar Breakdowns

Posted by John Callender on November 16th, 2005 at 8:25 pm


In the Volvo Ocean Race, the four boats that have not yet suffered any serious breakdowns are still very close together, with ABN AMRO One having an 11-mile lead on Brasil, then Ericsson 1 mile back, and ABN AMRO Two 2 miles back from there. See the official VOR site’s position maps page for details.

Five hundred miles astern, Sunergy is back on the course and racing, though at a significantly slower speed than the boats in the lead pack. And back in Portugal, some really interesting news has come out regarding the breakdowns to movistar and Pirates of the Caribbean, neither of which will be rejoining this leg.

An article from the Telegraph has extensive discussion with Paul Cayard about just what went wrong on Pirates — and it doesn’t sound pretty: Cayard fears for Volvo 70 safety.

Instead of having a keel with a hinge on the outside beneath the hull, like the Open 60s competing in the Transat Jacques Vabre, the Volvo 70s have their pins inside the hull. This leaves a door-sized hole in the hull bottom.

The box – dubbed by Cayard the “fish bowl” because it has an inspection window – sits over the hole in the hull and the hydraulic rams pass into it, sealed by industrial-strength gaiters.

Pirates’ problem was that the fairings are meant to seal the hull bottom. When one fell off, it was not just a question of lost speed through increased drag but of the entire integrity of hull depending on the “fish bowl”, which was not designed to withstand the tons of pressure that were building up inside it.

More info on the Pirates team is available in this update from Cayard at Yachting World’s site: We have now been in port for 36 hours…

Over at movistar, the damage to the hull and appendages that was revealed when they hoisted the boat out of the water has led the team to conclude that they must have hit something big — like a container. More details from the official VOR site: Bad, but not quite as bad.

Again, more detail is available in this item from Yachting World: movistar damage caused by collision.

Photo: movistar in happier days. Photo by Sally Collison,

VOR: Lead Changes, Fire, Men (Intentionally) Overboard, and Sunergy Heads in for Repairs

Posted by John Callender on November 14th, 2005 at 10:20 am

Brasil 1

It’s been a hell of a day at sea for the VOR racers, apparently. From the official site:

In an audio interview at 1230GMT, Ericsson navigator Steve Hayles told the Volvo Ocean Race web site that the boat was stopped in the water and crew members Jason Carrington and Richard Mason were in the water cutting away ropes from the keel and rudder. Thirty hours ago, during the first night, Ericsson had what Hayles described as an issue with a sail and a halyard, and had been sailing since with the debris hanging off the appendages. It was only now that the conditions were judged safe enough to put the swimmers in the water to resolve the problem.

Mike Sanderson, skipper of ABN AMRO ONE spoke to Race Headquarters at 1200 GMT and shocked radio reporter Guy Swindells with a very matter of fact report of a fire on board. Apparently a bolt had dropped into the battery box and lodged between a battery terminal and the carbon fibre structure. Carbon fibre is conductive and the resulting short circuit took out the wiring and systems in navigaton, communications and the media station. Once the fire was controlled, navigator Stan Honey, an acknowledged electronics expert in the field of TV and films, and not just an offshore navigator, has managed to re-wire the damaged areas so that they are now able to communicate and use their electronic navigation systems.

Meanwhile, Sunergy, the Australian team whose finances, and partcipation, were in doubt up until the last days before the start, has suffered a failure of the mainboom gooseneck, and is reportedly heading into port for repairs. More on the carnage in this Times Online article: Volvo boats crippled by raging seas.

At the front of the fleet, it’s currently a seesaw battle between Brasil 1 and ABN AMRO One, with Ericsson and ABN AMRO Two slightly farther back.

Photo caption: Water flows over the side deck into the cockpit of Brasil 1. ©Brasil 1.

Pirates, Movistar Out for Repairs; ABN AMRO Boats Lead VOR

Posted by John Callender on November 13th, 2005 at 10:25 am

VOR start

The Volvo Ocean Race is under way, and two of the seven boats are already headed to port for repairs involving the hydraulic canting keels. From Yachting World: Drama on leg 1.

Paul Cayard’s Pirates of the Caribbean was understood to have sprung a leak which had seriously damaged the electronics aboard their Volvo 70. According to a report on the official web site:

‘The boat had lost computer control of the keel hydraulics and that as a result, the keel was not operational, compromising the racing ability of the boat, though not its safety. Falmouth Coastguard MRCC was informed, and told that the boat was not in danger and was heading for Cascais in Portugal.’

Aboard Movistar the problems were understood to be more serious. Again, according to reports on the Volvo site:

‘….the boat [Movistar] had fractured a keel ram shelf, the support that carries the fixed end of one of the massive hydraulic rams that actuate the swinging keel.

‘Shortly after the original incident, however, the boat reported further problems. This more serious damage caused Bouwe Bekking, movistar’s skipper to report, “The load on the one ram must have been huge, as the main bulkhead buckled badly. No other option than to head to port as it is not safe to carry on.’

The team are understood to be heading towards Cadiz to assess the damage.

More on the Pirates and Movistar problems from the official VOR site: Unlucky for some.

Meanwhile, the ABN AMRO boats have done a good job of putting to rest the ‘too slow’ worries from the in-port race; as winds have picked up they’ve taken the lead, with ABN AMRO Two in first place and ABN AMRO One 10 miles back. Again from the official site: Seriously hardcore.

Photo by Oskar Kihlborg.

Times of London on Volvo Safety Fears

Posted by John Callender on November 11th, 2005 at 6:23 am

VOR in port race no. 1 start

I was interested by this article from last week’s Times of London about the potential for mayhem in the upcoming Volvo Ocean Race: Global race starts under a cloud of safety fears.

The new Volvo Open 70s could hardly be more of a contrast to Volvo’s safetyconscious designs for the family car market. The boats are only 10ft longer than the old Volvo 60s, which were used in the last race four years ago, but they are much more powerful and much more dangerous.

Capable of exhilarating performance, with a top speed of up to 40 knots, the super-light Volvo 70s demand total concentration from their ten-man crews, with manoeuvres in rough seas having to be precisely choreographed if spectacular wipe-outs are to be avoided.

The new boats are more complex than the 60s and include hydraulically controlled keels that swing through an arc of 40 degrees either side of the centre line, giving the yachts extra lateral stability, plus daggerboards either side of the mast to prevent the boats slipping sideways.

Conceptually, it makes all kinds of sense. In flat water, under ideal conditions, I’m sure it makes for intense sailing excitement. But in the Southern Ocean, I just don’t know.

Neal McDonald, of Britain, who skippers Ericsson, admitted to a certain nervousness and fear of the unknown. “These are tricky boats — they are fast and powerful,” he said. “The hardest thing will be to know when to back off. When do we say, ‘Let’s put the no heroes flag up and knuckle down for the night and make sure we see tomorrow in good shape.'”

Paul Cayard, the Californian skipper of The Black Pearl, a boat sponsored by Disney in a unique marketing campaign to promote a sequel to the feature film Pirates of the Caribbean, is concerned about the swing keels, which have had a mixed reliability record in other classes. “The technology is a little more on the edge,” he said.

I continue to think that the relatively conservative (emphasis on the “relatively”) boats of the ABN Amro campaign may end up doing significantly better than their poor showing in the opening race last Saturday would seem to indicate.

I was also interested by the quotes coming from ABN Amro One skipper Mike Sanderson, as quoted in this post-race writeup from the official site: Worry no more.

Mike Sanderson put a brave face on a woeful performance by the best-funded boat in the fleet. In the preceding days he had made it clear that we shouldn’t expect a sparkling performance in light airs. ABN AMRO One is a fat-bottomed girl who likes a good breeze to allow her to strut her stuff. She doesn’t like it light and fluffy. “I can walk down the dock and I can show you the narrowest boat and I can show you the widest one,” said Moose. “It wasn’t the biggest surprise. We always knew that a six-knot In Port race — where we got the start wrong — would be our biggest nightmare. I think I’ve said that publicly before. You know that when you put your boat at one side of a fleet, you’re going to come first sometimes and other times you’re going to come last. We’re still adamant we’ve the right boat for the race. I don’t think we’ll be having this conversation in Cape Town.”

Time will tell on that one, obviously.

Photo: That’s In Port race one winner Ericsson taking the pin end at the start, on her way to stretching out to a big lead on the left side of the first beat. Photo by Rick Tomlinson.

Ericcson Wins Volvo ‘In Port’ Race One

Posted by John Callender on November 5th, 2005 at 12:46 pm

Ericsson wins race 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race

With John Kostecki calling tactics, Ericsson won today’s opening “in port” race of the Volvo Ocean Race in Galicia, Spain. Winds were light for the two-hour buoy race, which Ericsson apparently won with a combination of a good start, light-air speed and the decision to go left on the first beat. Ericsson had a four-minute lead at the first weather mark and was never seriously challenged after that. Here’s the write-up from the official site: Blow by blow. And here’s the report from Team Ericsson’s site: Flying start in Volvo Ocean Race 2005-2006.

Final results:

  1. Ericsson 01:51:29
  2. Brasil 1 01:54:55
  3. The Black Pearl 01:56:30
  4. Movistar 01:57:13
  5. ABN AMRO TWO 02:00:07
  6. ABN AMRO ONE 02:04:11
  7. Premier Challenge DNS

Reportedly the two ABN AMRO boats have been optimized for heavy winds, and they suffered badly in the light going. It’s an interesting question of whether that will pay off for them in the long run; as a Southern California racer I know that many overnight races are won or lost at night, when our local winds tend to be light. A boat that’s fast in light air can sometimes go two or even three times faster than a slower boat, building a huge lead in a very small amount of racecourse.

On the other hand, Southern California races don’t tend to feature 60-knot winds and 80-foot waves. A light-wind flyer might begin to look like a much riskier proposition in the high southern latitudes, where a boat built for rougher conditions could be pushed harder.

Time will tell, I guess.

Update: Tactician John Kostecki describes how the race looked from his point of view aboard Ericsson in this article from Yachting World: Kostecki on VOR win.

Wakeboarding Behind a Volvo 70

Posted by John Callender on November 4th, 2005 at 10:20 pm

wakeboarding behind a Volvo Open 70

In a few hours the Volvo Ocean Race will be starting in Galicia, Spain. (Well, technically, they’ll be sailing the first of the “In Port Races” that have been added to the event this time around. The first long-distance leg — from Vigo, Spain to Capetown, South Africa — starts a week from tomorrow.) In any event, in honor of the occasion, here’s a link to some humorous (well, to me) video footage of British wakeboarder Dan Nott wakeboarding behind one of the two boats being fielded by the Dutch ABN Amro team: Volvo 70 wakeboarding.

I can imagine taking a Volvo Open 70 out on the water. I think that would be really fun and exciting, if somewhat scary. I cannot even begin to imagine trying to race one through the Southern Ocean. Hat’s off to the people nutty enough to try it. Good luck, and I hope to see you all safe and sound at the finish about eight months from now.

(Footage from Scuttlebutt. Photo by Chris Ison.)

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