Team AkzoNobel has set off from Cardiff, Wales on the penultimate leg of the Volvo Ocean Race – a 1300-nautical mile (2400-kilometer) route along the south and west coasts of Ireland, around the northern tip of Scotland, and across the North Sea to Gothenburg, Sweden.
Currently in fourth place in the overall standings the team is on the hunt for a chance to close the points gap on the top three teams – Dongfeng Race Team (CHN), Mapfre (ESP) and Team Brunel (NED) – enough to be within striking distance on the upcoming final leg of the race from Gothenburg to The Hague in the Netherlands.
Winds were super-light at the scheduled start time 1600 BST (1500 UTC/1700 CEST) causing race organisers to delay for 30 minutes to allow the tide to turn in favour of the fleet.
Despite this slow-speed beginning the team AkzoNobel sailors are expecting to face a wide range of weather conditions on the way to Sweden.
“It’s a very interesting leg,” said team AkzoNobel navigator Jules Salter (GBR). “The coastal racing is always interesting. It will be sunny when we pass West Cork which should mean pretty spectacular views, I hope.
“The end of the leg is going to be quite fierce with winds of 25 to 30 knots – conditions we like. It’s the North Atlantic and North Sea so it’s going to be cold and it’s going to be tough. But we are all up for the challenge and ready to take it on.”
Prior to the start guest jumper Andrew Grieve – an AkzoNobel chemist at the company’s Felling site and a team AkzoNobel ‘super-fan’ – made a spectacular leap from the yacht’s stern.
A keen dinghy sailor, Grieve – like thousands of other AkzoNobel staff around the world – has been tracking team AkzoNobel since the Volvo Ocean Race began in Alicante, Spain last October.
He described the time he spent on board with the crew as “a dream come true”.
“It was an incredible experience,” he said afterwards. “Thanks to the sailors for letting me get a glimpse into their world. I will be following them all the way to the finish in The Hague and I’m hoping they can make it on to the podium.”
Team AkzoNobel got off to a clean start but with winds no stronger than zephyrs progress was slow and the fleet drifted away from Cardiff largely driven by the outgoing tide.
Pleasant fast reaching conditions are expected in the Irish Sea overnight, but these will transition into tougher headwinds along Ireland’s south coast tomorrow with the fleet expected to encounter very strong winds off Scotland’s west coast on Wednesday.
Based on the latest weather models the seven-boat fleet is expected to cross the finish line on the Göta älv river on the night of Thursday June 14.