Image © James Blake/Volvo Ocean Race
After a mixed performance on their first night at sea on Leg 11 of the Volvo Ocean Race from Gothenburg, Sweden to The Hague in the Netherlands, the sailors of team AkzoNobel are this morning in fifth place.
“Tonight is the longest night,” commented team AkzoNobel helmsman and sail trimmer Martine Grael (BRA) with a smile, adding: “That means a short night too!
“Conditions have been very different to what was forecast. We were expecting 35 knots upwind, but the sea has been relatively flat. It’s slower but more pleasant sailing”
Although team AkzoNobel led the seven-boat fleet around the short opening inshore course and away from Gothenburg yesterday, later that evening the team lost ground as the boats tacked upwind along the Swedish coast.
After rounding the turning marker buoy off Norway at 1145 UTC (0145 CEST) this morning in fourth place the crew has since dropped a place to Team Brunel (NED) as the boats power downwind at around 20 knots.
Team AkzoNobel watch captain Chris Nicholson summed up the situation in this email report from the boat.
“After a good great start in Goteborg we have been really hot and cold,” Nicholson wrote. “Brunel and ourselves were passed on both sides working our way up to Norway.
“Since rounding the "windward " mark at just off the Norwegian coast we have also been hunted down by Brunel and have watched Vestas sail away.
“Sometimes this can be caused by us sailing in the wrong mode for changing sea state, but this feels like something else. We are all very frustrated but are keeping calm and trying to work through the situation.
“The only way to solve this is to go back to the setup we know and hopefully stop the bleeding – stay tuned.”
This morning at 0630 UTC (0830 CEST) team AkzoNobel was one nautical mile (1.8 kilometers) behind Team Brunel with a further 21 nm (39 km) to Leg 11 leader Dongfeng Race Team.
“It looks like we will be at Aarhus later today,” said team AkzoNobel bowman Brad Farrand (NZL). “Then we will turn the corner and head back north.”
Although the team’s current position in the fleet is not what the crew would have hoped for, with much lighter winds expected on the final approach to The Hague on Sunday, the strategy will be to minimise any losses and look for opportunities to close down the leaders enough to be within striking distance at the end.
“There has been no sleep so far and it looks busy for the next 24 hours,” wrote Nicholson.
“We are eating plenty of food to keep us going, but the best way to feel energized is to be sailing fast.
“There are plenty of difficult transitions ahead, so we need to play it smart and take an opportunity when it presents itself.”