On the Way to Lorient in the Volvo Ocean Race

This whole race restart thing is getting easier and easier with every leg. The routine begins with the In-Port Race’s finish on Saturday, and it ends the second we leave the dock on Sunday; there is a lot that has to happen in between those two times. For example, there are six or seven days of food to pack, personal gear to sort, air freight and race-ending logistics to organize, families to see, and of course, a Volvo 70 named MAR MOSTRO to fill with a complete offshore inventory of spares, maintenance equipment, toilet paper, “foulies,” and sails.

Thanks to an amazing shore team, some well-rehearsed preparation, and a little bit of luck, things yesterday went smoothly enough to allow us to relax a little on the way out to the course. I cannot overstate the value of a clear and calm conscience when you’re about to leave for weeks at sea; it makes an enormous difference.

We went out on the river, did our reconnaissance, ate our lunch, and nailed the start. It was as simple as that, and while the Lisbon lap was more or less a procession from there, the guys hit every manoeuvre with the kind of efficiency and effectiveness you’d expect from a team that has been racing together for over a year. Great chemistry and a positive attitude go a long way too.

So here we go. Leg 8 of 9, the last 1,000-plus leg on the table. There’s no hiding the significance… We haven’t missed the podium since China and knock on wood that consistency continues, because the remaining points are in short supply. We’re trying not to get too caught up in the “how many points to who” game – it would be too easy to do – because in an ocean race covering isn’t always an option and thinking that way is more distracting than anything else. The rational thing to do is sail the boat as fast as we know how, be tactically aggressive while minimizing risks, and hope for success.

Right now we’ve got all of the players in play; CAMPER and Groupama are close to leeward, Telefónica even closer to windward. It’s a sight we better get used to, day and night. Boatspeed kills and sometimes we have it, sometimes we don’t. Survival will be about shortening the downs and lengthening the ups, and on the short trip out to the Azores that’ll be key. Once there and the expected high-pressure slow-up begins, who knows what will happen, but that has nothing to do with what we’re doing now!

It’s time to go hike a little harder, sleep a little less, and enjoy each and every day out here. They too are numbered, and in all of this competitiveness, having fun still remains a top priority for all.

- Amory

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PUMA OCEAN RACING POWERED BY BERG LEADS FLEET OUT OF LISBON FOR START OF LEG 8 OF VOLVO OCEAN RACE

LISBON, PORTUGAL (JUNE 10, 2012) – The PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG crew won the start and led the fleet around the inshore course for the start of the penultimate leg of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12 on Sunday. Leg 8 will take the fleet approximately 1,900 miles, out from Lisbon, Portugal, around the Azores and in to Lorient, France.

“It looks like we’re going to have some good conditions over the next few days and get to Lorient pretty quick,” said skipper Ken Read. “This is the time in the race you have to get a little lucky with what conditions suit your boat best. So, we’re probably going to need a little bit of help in the tight reaching stuff ahead, and hopefully in the power running after the Azores we can do some damage.”

PUMA led off the line down the first leg of the inshore portion of Leg 8 and sailed along the city side of the Tagus River, under the 25th of April Bridge to the first mark. PUMA’s Mar Mostro remained in front of the fleet around Mark 1 and 1:08 ahead of CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand. The crew stayed out front as they went back down river, past the final two turning marks and headed out into the Atlantic Ocean.

Based on the current forecast, the leg could take around six days to complete. The route will send the fleet northwest into the Atlantic around the archipelago of the Azores and on to Lorient.

“We’re just concentrating on the leg out at the moment,” said navigator Tom Addis. “We’ve got a pretty big uncertainty around the Azores where it could get quite light. So, we expect some good reaching out there, light around the corner and then it’s looking like a really fast trip home.”

PUMA has 176 overall points in the race and is currently in third place in the standings with two legs and two In-Port Races remaining on the schedule. The Groupama Sailing Team holds the top spot with 189 points, while Team Telefónica is second at 181.

On Monday, June 11, the Volvo Ocean Race will host live video calls to each boat in the fleet. The call to PUMA is scheduled for 13:00 UTC and can be viewed online at new.livestream.com/volvooceanrace/Leg8. Additional calls are scheduled for June 13 and 15.

The Volvo Ocean Race started on November 5 in Alicante, and the fleet is traveling 39,000 nautical miles through 10 ports, finishing in Galway, Ireland, in July 2012.

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High stakes, rough ride for crucial Leg 8 sprint in the Volvo Ocean Race

Reposted from www.volvooceanrace.com:

The penultimate offshore test, starting on Sunday from Lisbon, will see the fleet head out into the North Atlantic and back for a sub-2,000 nautical mile passage to Lorient on the coast of Brittany, France.

To avoid the boats being caught in the clutches of the light winds of the Azores High, race organisers could opt to route the fleet around a virtual waypoint rather than the original turning point of São Miguel island in the Azores. A final decision on the exact location of the waypoint will be made in the days leading up to the start.

Despite its relative shortness, Leg 8 is shaping up to test the crews in a variety of ways with key factors likely to be the location of the Azores High and the possibility of finding a volatile low pressure system on the way back.

“The location of the Azores high determines the wind strength and direction for the first section from Lisbon to the Azores waypoint,” explained race meteorologist, Gonzalo Infante.

“At this time of year the high is well established and generally climbs in latitude so that its centre is around 36-38 degrees north. We expect the high to move eastward in the opening days of the leg, which should turn the wind from westerly at the start, to northerly on the way to the waypoint.”

In order to maximise boat speeds on the first section, the fleet is expected to head south west rather than point directly at the waypoint.

“The fastest point of sail will be reaching,” he said. “So heading south west enables the boats to make the best speed, and as the wind rotates more to the north, they should be able to maintain this fast angle as they turn towards the waypoint.”

The first section should take around 48 hours, but to complicate matters the easterly track of the Azores High could mean that the approach to the waypoint will take place in light winds close to its centre.

“This is likely to mean some compression after the first 48 hours as the high slows the boats’ progress close to the waypoint turning mark,” Infante said. “Also it puts a high premium on nailing the layline to the waypoint perfectly.”

After rounding the Azores waypoint, Infante said the teams would hope to hook into strong winds emanating from one of the regular low pressure systems which rocket east towards land — if they are there. If not, instead of a fast downwind ride it could be tough upwind racing for the final 48 hours to the finish.

“Whether it’s upwind or downwind on the way back it won’t be easy,” said Infante. “These are highly volatile weather systems.”

Infante expects the fleet to complete the course in less than seven days and said the key to success will be in the details around maximising boat speed at all times.

“Raw boat speed is going to be essential,” he said. “This leg is going to be about making small gains by getting every aspect right; staying in phase with the wind as it shifts, having the optimum sail plan up all the time, and nailing the lay lines to the marks.

“On the final approach to Lorient, local, less predictable weather patterns will come into play, meaning the crews will have to be on full alert throughout the leg. It could be another thriller.”

Leg 8 from Lisbon to Lorient is scheduled to start at 1300 local time (1200 UTC) on Sunday, June 10, with the fleet expected into Lorient on or around June 17. The top four teams are separated by just 21 points with two offshore legs and three in-port races to go.

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