Dongfeng Race Team - The Battle of the English Channel -
Leg 9, Part 1: Lorient to The Hague
Days at sea: 2
Position in fleet: First. Big split in the fleet, with the Northern option for Dongfeng be the right option?
Boat speed: 11 knots
With an intensity of a one hour in-port race, Dongfeng Race Team have been battling their way up the English Channel since yesterday as the fleet make some moves which might just decide both places on the Volvo Ocean Race podium. With huge areas of the course blocked as Exclusion Zones, in attempt to prevent a repeat of the Jury hearing and rules confusion of leg 7, the leaders of this final leg last night had to make a big call on whether to sail down the English or French coasts. Our Franco-Chinese team went for the English side, along with our closest competitors on the the leaderboard Mapfre and Brunel – in isolation a good tactic. The only problem is that the team taking a healthy lead on the French side is Alvimedica – who only have to put 2 boats between them and Dongfeng to steal 3rd place on the podium!
Winds went light first on the English coast early this morning, dropping below 10 knots for the trio – and allowing on distance to go, Alvimedica to wrestle a lead that Dongfeng managed to establish for the first time over Mapfre overnight. To the south Alvimedica must sail a slightly longer course to get to the final approach of The Hague – initially at least – but the trio to the north must sail a slalom course through the other Traffic Separation Scheme Exclusion Zones on the final approach, which depending on the wind direction will seriously compromise their performance.
So it’s all to play for – whilst the second part of the leg from The Hague to Gothenburg is still to come, there is no doubt that the order and separation in to The Hague could be the decider – and right now there are big plays on the table!
It will be the one time in their lives that the French sailors on Dongfeng support the English (winds) over the French side!
YANN’S BLOG – DECISION MAKING TIME
There’s an exclusion zone in the middle of the English Channel that we mustn’t go in. So we have two options… North or South ?
Right up until the last moment both routes were an option. The north, a little longer but with more room for manoeuvrability. The south, shorter and narrower and with a lot of sandbanks. Plus, the weather for the south didn’t look great.
While we thought about it, we waited. Thinking that, like usual, the boats would choose their side and stick to it with everyone going for the same option. But actually, what happened was totally the opposite.
Two boats in fact decided to follow us; MAPFRE and Brunel, most likely to stay in contact with us because of the general rankings.
“It’s a pretty uncomfortable situation with no guarantees.” – Pascal Bidegorry.
So starting from now, we need to forget the other half of the fleet. We’re trapped between the English coast and a traffic lane, we’re trying to make the most out of the decision we’ve made and keep our advantage over the boats that followed us. As for what’s happening on the other side? We can do nothing but watch.
Photo : Yann Riou / Dongfeng Race Team