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Dongfeng Race Team~Volvo Ocean Race

Dongfeng Race Team~Volvo Ocean Race

Volvo Ocean Race – Today, in OC Sport’s office the Dongfeng Race Team shore team received the latest position report. Dongfeng, who most likely through determination, smart navigation and no doubt a little luck, have managed to gain 24 miles in three hours.

Neil Graham, the team’s Technical Director picks up the phone to Team Director Bruno Dubois who is at Southampton airport: “Bruno… Absolutely… no, no it’s not a trick waypoint calculation we have gained 24 miles in three hours. I know… very good. They’ve done well in tricky conditions, we were sailing in slightly more breeze but with a better wind angle than the others. I agree… yes… great to be back in the mix of things… of course… we’ll just have to wait and see.”

Dongfeng kept furthest south – on the edge of the ice limit – to their rivals and its paid off. Whether it will keep on paying dividends, we will just have to wait and see. Of course. we’d love to shout it from the rooftops that we’re first but chances are, even by the time you read this, things could be very different.

This leg has been unlike any other for us. With the Chinese guys having never sailed in more than 30 knots of wind, Charles has had to find the right balance between performance and safety. It’s been interesting because in the same way we have received encouraging emails and comments on social media, we have also received some more realistic ones, such as: “You guys are great in light winds but this is not your leg.”

There’s no disputing Charles and his team have done well so far – four legs and four podiums. The compromise on race performance is more exposed on this leg with our crew set-up of Chinese rookies and western pro sailors, but again the determined men of Dongfeng keep fighting and the unexpected happens – we find ourselves in first position. We know it’s not over until it’s over. But for now – at least until the next position report! Dongfeng Race Team fans can carry on their day with a smile. 

Last night Dongfeng were as far as they could be from civilisation, tomorrow marks the halfway point of the Volvo Ocean Race and on Sunday the leaders are expected to round Cape Horn. Today’s race update 

Closer to the International Space Station orbiting the planet than any civilisation! 

Love that fact supplied by VOR HQ… Dongfeng has just passed Point Nemo, the point on the surface of the planet further from any civilisation. 

Antartica is closer than South America or New Zealand. 

And the warmth of Brazil still seems like a very long way away for the determined men of Dongfeng as they fight their way back in to the race in the first sustained lighter airs moment of this leg. 

Its finally gone cold, as the fleet skirt around the ice limits put in place by the VOR organisation to reduce the risk of the boats seeing icebergs, or the small blocks that break off them, called ‘growlers’. At speed, hitting a growler can be as dangerous – and they are just about invisible, certainly at night, until its too late if you see them at all. Some races, including this one in the days when our Team Director Bruno Dubois did it, had no limits, and sailing through minefields of icebergs was all part of the game. After all the further south you sail around the sphere that is our planet, the shorter the distance you have to go – if you stand at the South Pole, you can run around the planet in three seconds if you take that to the extreme to understand it. Further south equals colder and more ice floating that has broken away from Antarctica. VOR HQ are using a service from CLS which uses satellites to pinpoint the largest areas of ice – and they’ve spotted a one kilometre lonFebruary, 2015. Leg 5 onboard Dongfeng Race Team. Mast Check for Kevin Escoffier. Ice gate just below.g iceberg pushing its way through the previously set ice limits. So they’ve moved this virtual barrier even further north.
The consequence is that Dongfeng, along with the leaders, are just sailing as close to this limit as they can – gybing as if they were in a narrow corridor between two land masses. Only in this case, its ‘ice limit’ to the south, and ‘further distance’ to the north. If there was no ice limit, the most daring would be diving south right now, taking measured risks in order to win. In this race though we’re going to see the equivalent of a downwind leg in the in-port racing, at least for the next few hundred miles when perhaps some other more northerly options will open up as the new depression stretches out to the north east of them. 

The leading foursome are all locked in a very close battle, as if it was a in-port race. Dongfeng, still close enough to get back their game, is some 30 miles astern. Its possible that the new wind that will arrive, will fill in from behind first by enough time to allow them to catch the leaders. This is what the guys will be hoping for – as the ice limits have taken away most of the other tactical options to do something different. 

Blog from Yann 

“The world belongs to those who stay up late!” 

Here, everything takes time. Even though we could do with more sleep than ever, time is drained away by all the details of life on a race boat in the Southern Ocean. 

15 minutes to get dressed, 15 minutes to get undressed. Three times a day. Wash, eat, go to the toilet. Try to dry our wet clothes on the engine cover when the batteries are being charged. Not simple. Not simple and above all time consuming. Our rest time gets eaten up quickly. Very often the crew don’t make it to their bunks for a long time after their watch ends. 

And without doubt, that is tiring them out. Once you add the freezing cold and a good dose of stress, one can understand the long faces when they shaken from their sleep to go back on watch. 

Since this morning we’ve been sailing in light airs. We were starting to forget what that is like. And in some ways its a good feeling, as long as we put aside for now the fact that we’re going to take a big hammering in a couple of days time [near Cape Horn]. But for now we can make the most of it to recover, all the while executing gybe after gybe along the ice limit line. Not exactly ideal for the siesta! 

But we try nonetheless to make the most of each moment of free time to rest. Ipods, books or other distractions are the top of the bag, and when there is nothing to do, we sleep. Managing our sleep is going to be critical to perform well on this leg up to the Horn, and then on to Brazil.

by Dongfeng Race Team

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