Volvo Ocean Race: team AkzoNobel, Leg 2 Week 2 in review

Sunday, 19 November 2017


In brief:
– Experimental sail combinations fix boat speed issue
– Salter tries breakaway corner-cutting move to reel in leaders
– Seventh place on Sunday November 19 with 2,000 nautical miles (3,700 kilometers) to go to Cape Town
– Fast and furious sailing ahead for final week at sea 

Sunday, November 19, 2017: Team AkzoNobel’s second week at sea on Leg 2 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18 has been a predominantly nervous and edgy time for the crew after they gambled on an easterly strategy to help them get back in contention with the leading teams.
After crossing the equator in fifth place on Monday November 13, the team fell into formation with the rest of the fleet as the boats powered south west towards the coast of Brazil, making fast progress in steady, southern hemisphere trade winds.
The sailors allowed themselves a brief moment of fun away from the racing to uphold an ancient naval tradition to convert the crew’s “Pollywogs” (first time equator crossers by boat) into “Shellbacks”.
In a makeshift kangaroo court on the boat’s aft deck, King Neptune (aka watch captain Chris Nicholson (AUS) and his wife “Codfish” (boat captain Nicolai Sehested) administered summary “punishments” to Brad Farrand (NZL), Martine Grael (BRA) and Emily Nagel (BER/GBR) – including a colorful new hairdo for Farrand and a dousing with noxious leftover food slop for all three. Watch the video


From left to right, Brad Farrand (NZL), Martine Grael (BRA), Emily Nagel (BER/GBR), Captain Codfish aka Nicolai Sehested (DEN) and King Neptune aka Chris Nicholson (AUS) 'celebrate' crossing the equator on board team AkzoNobel
© James Blake / Volvo Ocean Race
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By Tuesday November 14, isolated from the leading group – Dongfeng Race Team (CHN), Mapfre (ESP), Vestas 11th Hour Racing (DEN/USA) and Team Brunel (NED) – and well ahead of sixth and seventh placed Turn the Tide on Plastic (UN) and Sun Hung Kai Scallywag (HKG), and so with nobody to pace themselves against, for a few days the team AkzoNobel crew struggled to match the speed of the leaders.
“We are falling a little bit behind,” reported boat captain Nicolai Sehested (DEN). “It’s just a few miles every day, so it’s not the end of the world, but we have to fix it.”
The crew set about resolving their speed issues by experimenting with several new sail combinations to try to find the sweet spot that would bring them back on par with the frontrunners.
Watch video
Meanwhile, navigator Jules Salter (GBR) was poring over his navigation laptop cooking up a new routing strategy that he hoped would help them close down the leading group.
Salter’s plan was to break away from the line of the fleet to take up a more easterly position that could enable them to cut the corner around a large persistent light wind weather system called the St. Helena high pressure that blocked the fleet’s direct route to Cape Town.
The potential gains from sailing this much shorter route were significant but the team would also run the risk of being trapped in no wind if the high pressure system shifted even a little to the west.
“Sometimes in these scenarios there are more options in being behind,” said Ross Monson, team AkzoNobel’s on shore navigator. “The boats at the front of the pack will tend to stick to the routing, whereas boats further back can see what is happening up ahead and adapt their strategies. They can take more risk with fewer consequences,” he summised.


Boat captain Nicolai Sehested (DEN) (left) and navigator Jules Salter (GBR) (right) study the latest weather at the team AkzoNobel navigation station.
© James Blake / Volvo Ocean Race
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For a few days team AkzoNobel’s easterly position in the fleet meant the team was geographically closest to Cape Town and this elevated them to the top of the standings on the official race tracker which ranks the teams based on the distance to the finish.
However, when the fleet began to converge on Friday, November 17 the team AkzoNobel sailors found themselves in fifth place again as the westerly route delivered more wind for the new leg leader Brunel.
Since then the fleet has continued to push south into the colder and stormier waters known as the Southern Ocean, bringing a new strategy into play. Now the goal is to line up in the path of an easterly-moving “depression” – fundamentally a small storm system – that formed off Buenos Aires, Argentina. 
“We have exited the high [pressure weather system] and the race is now down to the next low pressure system,” explained Nicholson. “The goal is to set ourselves up for the front to come through and to ride the front as fast as we can for the next four days and try to be there with those guys [the leading pack of four] towards the finish.”
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Bowman Brad Farrand has a bird's eye view up the team AkzoNobel mast
© James Blake / Volvo Ocean Race
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At the 0900 UTC position report today, Sunday November 19, team AkzoNobel was in seventh place in the fleet – chiefly by way of being the most westerly boat – 72 nautical miles (133 kilometers) behind the leader Vestas 11th Hour Racing.
However, with several days of fast running ahead, in wild and windy conditions on the leading edge of the cold front, the crew is hoping to make gains over the boats further north and will be sailing flat out to try to be part of the leading bunch when the fleet reaches Cape Town – around 2,000 nm (3,700 km) away – on Friday November 24.
“We will be giving it everything we have in this final week to try to get a podium place,” said skipper Simeon Tienpont. “It’s about balancing speed and safety. You have to push hard to get the performance but not so hard that you break the boat or blow out a sail.
“It’s going to be an exciting final few days to Cape Town!”


team AkzoNobel skipper Simeon Tienpont:
"We will be giving it everything we have to try to get a podium place."
© James Blake / Volvo Ocean Race
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Last Updated ( Sunday, 19 November 2017 )