On Sunday the second leg of the Volvo Ocean Race will kick off, with 30 new points to play for and over 5,400 miles of racing ahead between the South African city of Cape Town and Abu Dhabi. This will be a different sort of leg, with piracy forcing an unprecedented move in the history of the competition: the leg will be divided in two.
The forecasts are looking good in terms of breeze for the fleet's farewell to Cape Town, and Alicante's Pepe Ribes says that this will be a “tricky start and leg. We are near the Cape of Good Hope so we'll get the bad weather as we are reaching, just as we did in Alicante. We'll then be getting some strong westerly winds and we'll have to notch up as many miles as we can before we make a call at a certain longitude to turn North with a good angle and to climb North as fast as we can”, explains the veteran round the world yachtsman.
An unprecedented leg
This second leg will be unusual, to say the least. On the 18th of August this year the regatta organisers got together to make some changes to the second and third legs (Cape Town – Abu Dhabi and Abu Dhabi – China respectively). The reason: the soaring safety and security issues caused by piracy in the Indian Ocean, and especially off the East coast of Africa where the fleet passes, and more specifically opposite the coast of Somalia.
The conclusion was to divide the leg in two. On Sunday at 13:00 GMT when the boats shoot off and the starting gun sounds for the start of the second leg, they'll be first heading for a Safe-Haven Port on the coast of the Indian Ocean, which despite much speculation for security reasons, hasn't been named by the organisers.
That's where the first stretch of the leg will finish and the Volvo Open 70s will then be loaded onto an armed heavy lift ship (without the crews) following the safest route possible and with armed guards on board, to a set-down point 'B' long the Sharjah coastline in the northern Emirates. The racing will then resume with the start of the second leg, a final sprint to the finishing line at Abu Dhabi, and if all goes to plan that should be roughly a day's sailing.
The race tracker will be working as normal up to a certain point. Once the boats are approaching point 'A', the race tracker will only deliver reports on the distances between the entries and the leader. The public will therefore be informed of the order of the entries, but will not have any other knowledge of their exact whereabouts, which will also happen on the third leg.
Defining a leg strategy is never easy, but on this leg in particular the Navigators and Skippers will have to really maximise their resources to find the ideal route to their final destination.
Weather-wise this will also be a complex leg with the fleet sailing across different meteorological systems. “Telefónica” will be looking for pure speed when reaching, which is how the Spanish team has chosen to optimise the boat.
“I think this is a very long competition and we've won the first leg, but you have to win a lot more than that to win the round the world regatta, which is what counts. This is a competition lasting nine months and now we are facing the second leg as if we were back at the start. We are competitive and we have to fight for every mile to get ahead and our ultimate aim is in July”, said Pepe Ribes.
Two stretches, two scores
The total number of points available on this leg will be the same as in the others, that is to say, the winner will add 30 points to their scoresheet, the second-placed entry 25, third 20, fourth 15 and the fifth entry takes 10 points.
However the point distribution will change and that will mean that each stretch of the two in this leg will be scored separately.
Between Cape Town and point 'A', the Safe Haven Port, 80% of the total points will be up for grabs, with the leader taking 24 points, the second 20 points, the third 16 points...etc.
The other 20% will be in play on the second stretch of the leg from the set down point to the finish, with the winner taking six points, second place taking five, third place taking four, etc.
In-Port race tomorrow
At 13:00 GMT the starting gun will be fired for the second of the ten in-port races to be held in this edition of the Volvo Ocean Race, and the winner will take another 6 points.
“Telefónica” will be looking to make a comeback after disappointing results in Alicante, although their Skipper knows it's not going to be easy, especially with a forecast pointing to lots of breeze: “Handling these yachts on such a short course is hard and when there's a lot of breeze they go so fast that's it's even more difficult. We saw that in Alicante and at times we weren't even able to bring down or change the sails”, admits Iker Martínez. “It was hard for us in Alicante because we hadn't spent much time preparing for in-port racing and we'd focussed on getting the boat ready and fast and we thought that we'd just manage somehow when it came to the coastal racing”.
“We've made some changes and we hope to perform at a better level this time, although we still believe that thi sis a race you win out on the ocean and almost all of our training is geared towards that: to the ocean. Of course we'll give all we've got to do as well as we can to get good results in the in-port races”, said the Basque Skipper.
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