Volvo Ocean Race – There’s smoke coming from the printer.
One map after the other spurting out from between the rollers. Team Brunel navigator Andrew Cape is printing out the whole of Leg 9, a 960-nautical mile stretch between France and Sweden.
The final stage of the race starts today at 1500 UTC (1700 local time) from Lorient to Gothenburg, via a pit stop in The Hague.
It’s a key stage – yes, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing has already secured the overall trophy, but four boats are still competing for the second and third places.
In fact, just six points separate Team Brunel (27 points) from Dongfeng Race Team (29 points), MAPFRE (31 points) and Team Alvimedica (33).
And it’s a tricky stage, too.
“Everything is an obstacle,” sighs the Australian navigator. “Rocks everywhere, mud banks, wind farms, ships and shipping lanes… I know I say I don’t like Malacca a lot but of all places, I hate this bit more.”
Capey grabs the maps he just printed.
“We have to look at the whole picture because we have to provide the food and everything for the whole leg,” he says.
“But at the moment I only care about the first part to The Hague, because we’ll have a day there to think about the second section to Gothenburg.”
The fleet will first round a mark in the Bay of Quiberon before heading offshore, into the English Channel, through the narrow Straits at Dover and into the North Sea.
The forecast? A north-northwest wind, with the land breeze kicking in during the day and an average wind speed around 10 knots.
“This leg is almost going to be decided after the western tip of Brittany and the Alderney Race corner,” adds Capey.
“There will be tide and light winds – I think that stage could be critical.”
Other options could be key, according to his fellow navigator Pascal Bidégorry, from Dongfeng Race Team.
“Do we follow the English or the French shoreline once past the tip of Brittany? There are exclusion zones to round, too – that raises some more questions.”
“We’ve made all the Traffic Separation Schemes exclusion zones,” explains Race Director Jack Lloyd.
“We now have 17 exclusion zones from Lorient to Gothenburg. We’ve sent 17 files to the teams that are separate from the sailing instructions. Someone from every boat must answer saying they’ve downloaded these files onto their navigation computer.
‘This should hopefully work for them.’
“It does restrict the leg a little bit, but with the wind direction we have, it would only add hours and not days.
“We deliberately haven’t gone into the wind farms, oil platforms, gas platforms, all that sort of thing – if we had done that as well, I doubt really whether we could have sailed through there with any sense of being a race.”
Estimated Time of Arrival in The Hague: Thursday, June 18 in the evening to Friday, June 19 in the morning.
The crews will sail out of The Hague in the same order and timing that they sailed in, with the first boat resuming racing at 1200 local time on June 20.