With the first leg – Valencia to Lisbon – done and dusted, 1600 nautical miles in just over 6 days, 1st Vestas 11th Hour – Skipper Charlie Enright, 2nd MAPFRE – Xabi Fernandez, 3rd Dongfeng Race Team – Charles Caudrelier, 4th team AkzoNobel – Simeon Tienpoint, 5th Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag – David Witt, 6th Team Brunel – Bouwe Bekking, 7th Turn the Tide on Plastic – Dee Caffari, the iconic Volvo Ocean Race has been and is, probably, the most gruelling team sporting event since it’s inaugural start on the 8th September 1973 as the Whitbread Round the World, the 7000 Nautical Miles from Lisbon to Cape Town starts on 5th November 2017.
The seven Volvo Ocean 65s, designed by Farr Yacht, competing in the 8 month, 45000 nautical mile marathon, are of identical design, build, sails, rigs, technical equipment and, strangely enough, engine. “The Volvo Ocean 65” is 20.37m in length with a Waterline length of 20m (65ft), Beam of 5.6m, Draft of 4.78, Rig height of 30.3m, Bowsprit of 2.14m, upwind sail area of 468 m2 and downwind sail area of 578 m2, an empty weight of 12500kg and a Volvo Penta D2-75 with S-drive which produces electricity for the communications equipment, computers, lights and heating, along with power for the hydraulic cylinders system.
After a 1st Leg of relatively light winds, the north south Atlantic run will pass through multiple climate zones lying horizontally and looping the globe, running out from the Equator to the Poles in a mirror image.
The Azores High is a Sub-Tropical High Pressure Zone which is a huge area of stable, semi static high pressure where sailing vessels encounter light winds. They will then encounter, the second of these oceanic climate zones, the Trade Winds, which are moderate to strong winds that blow consistently towards the Equator from the north-east in the northern hemisphere, and from the south-east in the southern hemisphere. So, there are two belts of Trade Winds that girdle the globe, each blowing from a Sub-Tropical High Pressure Zone towards the Equator.
Bottom line is that if the High Pressure is sitting over Lisbon then the sailing will be slow, but should the Trade Winds be starting at Lisbon then the sailing will be fast and furious fun.
The Canary Islands and Cape Verde Islands both lie in the way as they head south and can impact the strength and direction of the wind for hundreds of miles meaning lots of overtaking opportunities.
South of the Trade Winds lies the Doldrums or Intertropical Convergence Zone, a region of Low Pressure that envelopes the Earth’s oceans roughly at the Equator. It is where warm, moist air rises creating thunderstorms, light winds, rain and sudden unexpected gusts, all extremely unpredictable. The Doldrums can be a real game changer on this leg, where the yacht spending the least time in there able to take a good advantage.
The St Helena High mirrors the Azores High, but there is no straight sailing to Cape Town. The yachts will go west of the High and work down the side before getting into the final climate zone.
The Westerly Storm Track, which offers storms and low pressure systems swirling from west to east around the globe, circulating the Arctic in the north and Antarctic in the south, always moving west to east. The strategy will be to get clear of the Sub-Tropical High Pressure and into the Storm Track, find a low pressure system moving east across the South Atlantic, into the Southern Ocean and straight into Table Bay sometime after the 24th of November.
Welcome to Cape Town “me hearties”.