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December 11 Report: Cape Town provided another spectacular stopover to the Volvo Ocean Race, as the fleet raced off for Melbourne, Australia on Sunday afternoon...
Volvo Ocean Race fleet flying out of Cape Town ©Ainhoa Sanchez/Volvo Ocean Race
It was the eleventh time in the history of the event that the fleet had raced out of Cape Town, this time on a 6,500 nautical mile leg to Melbourne, Australia. The ETA is currently between the 24th and 26th of December.
Conditions were ideal, with the famed Cape Doctor wind blowing at 20-25 knots. The fleet raced around a short triangle course in front of the city, before being freed to sprint off towards Australia. Over the coming two weeks the 63 sailors and seven embedded onboard reporters will face some of the world's worst weather as they charge east through the Southern Ocean. An enormous low pressure system is currently developing to the west of the fleet, and in a few days will engulf the teams with winds of up to 60 knots.
Daily Live Show – Monday 11 December | Volvo Ocean Race
Niall Myant-Best goes live from Race HQ to look at the highlights from the start of Leg 3 and this week's weather analysis.
December 12 Report by Will Carson: Fleet splits as depression nears
The Volvo Ocean Race fleet has split into two distinct groups as the teams start to position themselves for a storm due to hit them in two days' time.
Leg leader Dongfeng Race Team has been joined by MAPFRE, team Akzonobel and Team Brunel in a more southerly pack, while Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag, Vestas 11th Hour Racing and Turn the Tide on Plastic have chosen to forge their course around 25 nautical miles to the north.
The differing routes reveal the first signs of each of the teams' strategies for dealing with the violent Southern Ocean depression that is forming to the west of them. When it hits, predicted to be on Thursday, it is forecast to bring winds of up to 60 knots, and waves more than 13 metres tall.
The more southerly group initially reaped the rewards with a few extra knots of boat speed overnight but at 0700 UTC that advantage had all but vanished. In fact, the quickest boat in the fleet at the latest position report was Vestas, clocking up an extra 1.5 knots on Dongfeng's 15.7-knot average.
The fleet is likely to converge again later today as they line up for the next major move - a gybe north this evening to skirt an area of high pressure directly to the east.
December 12 Report by Event Media: Straddling the line
A gybing battle between the leaders of the third leg of the Volvo Ocean Race ensued on Friday as they tussled for position in the depths of the Southern Ocean...
Charles Caudrelier's Franco-Chinese crew Dongfeng Race Team continued to lead the way east, managing to stay just ahead of a huge depression catapulting the fleet towards Australia. However they have been under constant attack from Leg 2 winners MAPFRE, just 18 nautical miles directly to the west.
Along with Vestas 11th Hour Racing and Team Brunel, the frontrunners have opted for a southerly route that has taken them just 120 miles north of the Crozet Islands, a remote sub-antarctic archipelago that's home to a French research station manned by 30 scientists.
Leg 3, Cape Town to Melbourne, day 05, 50 knot gusts in the Southern on board Vestas 11th Hour. 14 December, 2017. Sam Greenfield/Volvo Ocean Race
By staying south the four teams are benefitting from sailing a shorter distance to the Leg 3 finish but the trade-off is facing more challenging weather conditions closer to the eye of the storm. The most direct route to Melbourne would see them dive well into the Furious Fifties but their path has been blocked by the Antarctic Ice Exclusion Zone set by race control to keep the fleet out of iceberg-infested waters.
Instead, to avoid entering the AIEZ while remaining in the strongest wind, the frontrunners have been forced to perform numerous gybes as they zig-zag just north of the line – a hard task at the best of times, but especially when also dealing with winds gusting up to 60 knots and huge waves.
Team Brunel skipper Bouwe Bekking recounted one such gybe in a dispatch from the boat.
“We did a gybe in 45 knots,” he wrote. “Luckily we had a huge surf and the main came through nicely. You are always worried about the battens and the mainsail track in these conditions. Max wind puff was 62 knots, good we had the gennaker furled just before that. Now we are literally riding the storm out.”
On Thursday team AkzoNobel paid the price for a less than perfect gybe when the force of the manoeuvre ripped a section of track from the mast, damaging their mainsail in the process.
Forced to use only headsails, the team has headed north to find the warmer weather need to allow for their repairs with epoxy resin to cure. While the crew have rallied round to fix the damage, they have been relegated to seventh place.
Daily Live – Friday 15 December | Volvo Ocean Race
Leg 3 – Position Report – Friday 15 December (Day 6) – 13:00 UTC
1. Donfeng Race Team -- distance to finish – 3,869.6 nautical miles
2. MAPFRE +20.3 nautical miles
3. Vestas 11th Hour Racing +89.2
4. Team Brunel +157.7
5. Sun Hung Kai / Scallywag +176.4
6. Turn the Tide on Plastic +186.5
7. team AkzoNobel +260.3
December 18 Report by Event Media: Close running in the Southern Ocean
Current Leg 3 frontrunners Dongfeng Race Team and MAPFRE have been racing practically neck and neck on Monday as the Southern Ocean continued to test the Volvo Ocean Race fleet.
After eight extraordinary days at sea less than three nautical miles split leg leaders Dongfeng from arch-rivals MAPFRE in the runner-up spot, with both crews within 2,700 miles of the finish line in Melbourne, Australia. The action at the front has been so tight that earlier today MAPFRE had to ease their sails in order to avoid a collision with leaders Dongfeng on one of many close crosses over the past 12 hours.
It is an incredible occurrence given their position thousands of miles from anywhere. In fact, in the past 24 hours the fleet has sailed a few hundred miles north of the Kerguelen island chain, one of the most isolated places on the planet.
Overnight MAPFRE slipped to almost 20 miles adrift of Dongfeng, but when the sun came up again Xabi Fernandez's Spanish crew were back on the coat tails of Charles Caudrelier's Franco-Chinese outfit.
“Not too long ago we had a port-starboard situation with MAPFRE, and that's an amazing thing to have happen,” Dongfeng's Carolijn Brouwer reported. “The guys on MAPFRE had to ease their masthead sail and arc up to avoid hitting us. We've been battling it out, gybing the whole night through, with probably an hour max on each gybe. It's been pretty tiring.
“For us it's a bit frustrating that they're so close, because we had a lead on them but they sailed a bit better and caught up. That said, it's amazing to be out here in the middle of nowhere with your opposition right next to you. It's a bit surreal but it makes us push the boats harder.
Fourth-placed Team Brunel were dealt a cruel blow with key crewmember Annie Lush suffering an injury to her back. Lush and teammate Peter Burling were grinding on the aft pedestal as Team Brunel prepared to gybe close to the Antarctic Ice Exclusion Zone when a huge wave swept them into the guard rail at the back of the boat. Burling was unhurt but Lush was left with pain down her right side and struggling to move her right leg. The crew responded immediately, carrying her down below and into her bunk where she has remained since.
Just over 220 miles behind the leaders, team Akzonobel were working hard to get back into the game after a broken mast track last week relegated them to the back of the pack. Now back up to full speed, navigator Jules Salter was today spending his 49th birthday poring over long range weather forecasts as the crew rides a front east.
December 28 Report: MAPFRE first into Melbourne to earn consecutive leg wins
The Spanish Volvo Ocean Race team MAPFRE has won Leg 3 from Cape Town, South Africa to Melbourne, Australia, a 6,500 nautical mile dive into the fierce challenges posed by the Southern Ocean.
Leg 3, Cape Town to Melbourne, arrivals. Photo by Jesus Renedo/Volvo Ocean Race. 24 December, 2017. Jesus Renedo/Volvo Ocean Race Jesus Renedo/Volvo Ocean Race
For the second consecutive leg, MAPFRE needed to come from behind to earn the victory. And for the second time in a row, it was Dongfeng Race Team they passed mid-stage, to snatch the win.
The Southern Ocean pushed the teams to the limit. Extreme cold, storm force winds for days on end and towering seas posed massive seamanship challenges, let alone allowing for racing and tactics.
Dongfeng Race Team was able to fend off a late charge by Vestas 11th Hour Racing and Team Brunel to secure a second place finish. A third place finish into Melbourne on Leg 3 of the Volvo Ocean Race has Vestas 11th Hour Racing on equal points for second place on the overall leaderboard.
For Team Brunel, this is a second consecutive mid-fleet finish. Skipper Bouwe Bekking knows it keeps his team in touch with leaders, but time is running out to make a charge for the podium on the overall leaderboard.
Fifth place in Leg 3 of the Volvo Ocean Race went to Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag who managed to hold off Turn the Tide on Plastic, for the second consecutive leg. Turn the Tide on Plastic was less than three hours behind.
It was a frustrating end to a difficult leg that saw the team fall behind the rest of the fleet after damaging their mast track during a gybe in heavy weather Southern Ocean conditions. In the time it took to jury-rig a repair, the team fell several hundred miles behind the leaders and into a less favourable weather pattern for the rest of the leg, resulting in the late finish.
It’s an abbreviated stopover in Melbourne, with restrictions on how much work the crews are allowed to do on the boats, ahead of the start of Leg 4, to Hong Kong, on January 2, 2018.
Leg 3 – Results at Wednesday 27 December (Leg 3, Day 18) at 23:30 UTC
- MAPFRE -- FINISHED -- 16:07.21 UTC, December 24 – 14 days, 04h:07m:21s
2. Dongfeng Race Team -- FINISHED – 20:10:16 UTC, December 24 – 14 days, 08h:10m:16s
3. Vestas 11th Hour Racing -- FINISHED – 21:52:11 UTC, December 24 – 14 days, 09h:52m:11s
4. Team Brunel -- FINISHED – 23:36:27 UTC, December 24 – 14 days, 11h:36m:27s
5. Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag -- FINISHED – 01:06:31 UTC, December 26 – 15 days, 13h:06m:31s
6. Turn the Tide on Plastic -- FINISHED – 03:52:50 UTC, December 26 – 15 days, 15h:52m:50s
7. team AkzoNobel -- FINISHED – 23:24:45 UTC, December 27 – 17 days, 11h:24m:45s
Volvo Ocean Race – Current Leaderboard
- MAPFRE -- FINISHED -- 29 points (after Leg 3)
2. Dongfeng Race Team -- FINISHED -- 23 points (after Leg 3)
3. Vestas 11th Hour Racing -- FINISHED -- 23 points (after Leg 3)
4. Team Brunel -- FINISHED -- 14 points (after Leg 3)
5. Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag -- FINISHED -- 11 points (after Leg 3)
6. team AkzoNobel -- FINISHED -- 9 points (after Leg 3)
7. Turn the Tide on Plastic -- FINISHED -- 6 points (after Leg 3)