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Team AkzoNobel in the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18

Team AkzoNobel in the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18 Leg 2, Week 1 in review

In Brief:

- Team AkzoNobel in fifth position after one week at sea on Leg 2 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18 from Lisbon, Portugal to Cape Town, South Africa
- The team is approaching the equator on the 13,000-km Leg
- Latest videos, transcripts and images can be downloaded
here (quick registration required)

12 November 2017: After seven days and around 3,000 nautical miles (5,500 kilometers) of non-stop racing since leaving Lisbon, Portugal on Leg 2 of the Volvo Ocean race 2017-18, team AkzoNobel is today closing in on the equator in fifth place, 13 nm (24 kilometers) behind the leg-leader Dongfeng Race Team.

Team AkzoNobel’s international seven-man and two-woman crew has been duelling with the frontrunners of the seven-boat fleet for the majority of the 7,000-nm (13,000-km) leg to Cape Town, South Africa.

Following an untypically slow start in Lisbon, the team fought its way back into contention with the leaders during an intense first night at sea when winds up to 35 knots and big seas gave the sailors a wet and wild ride west out into the North Atlantic Ocean towards the island of Madeira.

The pace was frenetic with the sailors having to endure an almost constant firehose of sea spray on deck – to say nothing of the ever-present risk of the boat wiping out after nosediving into the back of a huge ocean swell.

“Keeping a high average speed is what we try to aim for,” explained helmsman and sail trimmer Luke Molloy (AUS). “If you can consistently sail half a knot faster than someone else for a few hours, that makes a big difference. So, we try to avoid the big nosedives that slow us down, but every so often one will catch you out.”

Despite the breakneck speed of the boats this was no straightforward drag race. Shifting winds meant that the crews had to gybe (make a major change in course direction requiring the sails to be switched from one side to the other) regularly in order to sail the most efficient route.

High-speed tactical racing like this is both an exhilarating and exhausting experience for the crews who work in rotating four-hour shifts to keep the boat sailing at top speed day and night.

Any maneuver – like a gybe or changing to a different headsail – requires everyone on deck – bad news for the off-watch crew who have to scramble from their bunks, pull on their oilskins and clamber back on to the heaving wet deck.

Despite the relentless pace, on Monday November 6 the team AkzoNobel crew did find a brief moment to help Danish boat captain Nicolai Sehested celebrate his 27th birthday – by unceremoniously pushing a cream cake into his face. Watch the video here.

After rounding Madeira on the evening of Monday November 6 the seven-boat fleet surged south in close formation with team AkzoNobel in third place, as the crews started to line themselves up to pass the next archipelago on the course – the Canary Islands.

“Everyone [in the fleet] is being very cautious right now; we’re like a bunch of kids chasing the soccer ball around,” commented team AkzoNobel watch captain Chris Nicholson (AUS).

By Thursday November 9 the pace of the fleet slowed as the strong winds started to abate. This allowed the weary sailors a welcome opportunity to change into dry clothes for the first time since leaving Lisbon and to get some proper rest during their time off-watch.

Taking advantage of the lighter winds and drier conditions on deck, the team AkzoNobel crew carried out running repairs to the boat including patching a tear on the boat’s huge J1 headsail and fixing a problem with one of the boat’s two daggerboards that stop the boat from sliding sideways in the wind. Watch the video here.

While this work went on, the on-watch crew continued to race the boat to its full potential as they battled with second placed Vestas 11th Hour Racing (DEN/USA) and tried to close down the leg leader, Dongfeng Race Team (CHN).

As the fleet edged ever closer to the equator and the volatile zone known as the Doldrums [read our Doldrums guide here ] the weather became increasingly unpredictable, with torrential rain showers and fierce wind squalls the order of the day.

As the unpredictability ramped up further over the next 48 hours, the team AkzoNobel crew’s ability to quickly switch gears between light and strong winds was severely tested, resulting in some costly mistakes being made.

During Friday November 10 a communications error between the in-coming and off-going watches resulted in the team straying too far west from the leading pack. The mistake meant a loss of six miles against the fleet and allowed Spanish crew Mapfre to overtake.

“We have got to knock out the silly losses,” said Chris Nicholson afterwards. “It was a communications error from where we wanted to go, to what we had to deliver on deck. We could have been second and now we’re back to fourth.” Watch video here.

Things got worse on Saturday when team AkzoNobel lost another place to Dutch rivals Team Brunel, dropping the team to fifth in the rankings with around 300 miles to sail to the equator.

Although things have not been going their way for the last couple of days, the team AkzoNobel sailors will take comfort from being within striking distance of the lead after a week of non-stop racing and with two thirds of Leg 2 – a little under 4,000 nm/7,400 km – still to race before the finish in Cape Town.

Team AkzoNobel is expected to cross the equator in the early hours of Monday November 13 before two weeks of racing in the southern hemisphere.

Normally the fleet would initially expect to enjoy some fast, warm-weather trade wind sailing before taking on the colder and stormier South Atlantic Ocean on the run in to Cape Town. However, a recent major storm system in the south has left a trail of disturbed air in its wake that could result in some unstable weather for the crew to deal with, that could open up passing opportunities over the next 48 hours.

Current estimates suggest the leading boats will finish Leg 2 of the Volvo Ocean Race on or around November 28 or 29.

Team AkzoNobel crew list for Leg 2:

Simeon Tienpont (NED) - skipper
Brad Farrand (NZL)
Martine Grael (BRA)
Luke Molloy (AUS)
Emily Nagel (GBR/BER)
Chris Nicholson (AUS)
Jules Salter (GBR)
Nicolai Sehested (DEN)
Peter van Niekerk (NED)

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