It's Windy Out Here!
ALICANTE, Spain, Feb 20 – An incredible photograph from Team Brunel (Bouwe Bekking/NED) apparently showing three crew members suspended in mid-air as the Volvo Ocean Race Leg 4 leaders sped through the Pacific Ocean, has sparked a fierce social media debate: Is it faked or not?
The Dutch boat's Onboard Reporter (OBR) Stefan Coppers’ (NED) extraordinary picture (below) is, he insists, totally genuine and was set up and executed earlier this week.
Remarkably, they carried out the stunt while leading the fleet during the 5,264-nautical mile (nm) stage from Sanya, China to Auckland, New Zealand.
The media team at Race Control opted at first not to publicise the picture because it looked too amazing to be true and only genuine photos are passed on to the media.
However, a close examination by picture desk staff, plus the race’s photographic partners Getty Images, has ruled that it is genuine.
At least, they think so.
Particularly incredible, is the pose of the sailor apparently hanging on by his fingertips from the halyard in the middle of the picture: Lithuanian Rokas Milevicius.
Coppers, the man in the middle of the debate, insists that there was no magical post-production hocus pocus involved; just good planning and even better shutter timing.
So just how did Milevicius manage to get into such an extraordinary position with his boat surfing through the Pacific? Is he some kind of Superman?
“Rokas made a sling and I pushed down (on the shutter) at the right time,” wrote Coppers in a message to Race Control on Friday.
“We took it in the leg from China to Auckland while we leading the fleet. By the way, we don’t need to be in the lead to have fun.
“Whether we’re first or fifth, as we were in the last leg, we are positive. Maybe this picture best shows how the guys are – 100 per cent pushing the boat all the time but in for a joke.”
Coppers added: “By the way: my granny* could have taken this picture, so credit should go to the athletes.”
Despite the shenanigans, Team Brunel still led the fleet by 27.1nm at 0940 UTC on Friday. The boats still have 2,265nm to go before reaching Auckland around the end of this month.
* Coppers' granny was unavailable for comment on Friday.
MAPFRE ‘sailing blind’
- Communications antennae malfunction hampers Spanish boat
- Team Brunel cashing in on bold decision to sail north
ALICANTE, Spain, February 16 – Spanish boat MAPFRE (Xabi Fernández/ESP) were ‘sailing blind’ in Leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race on Monday after a problem with communications antennae on board prevented them from receiving key weather and other data.
Race Control was alerted to the problem over the weekend and has since worked with their suppliers and the boat to find a solution.
Gonzalo Infante, who runs the Race’s high-tech communications control room with the six-strong fleet, said on Monday it was not clear exactly what had caused the issue, which involves two antennae not functioning. Communications with the other five boats are working as normal.
“We can still send and receive plain text but cannot send detailed weather data. This has impacted on their ability to make strategic decisions – they are sailing blind,” he said.
Infante added that the Race was working with its suppliers of communications hardware and software on the boat to find a diagnosis and fix.
In a message from the boat, MAPFRE’s Onboard Reporter, Francisco Vignale (ARG), wrote: “We only have email which works. Jean Luc (Nélias-FRA), our navigator, is very limited in his work and can not forecast or work out future routes.”
Additionally, the crew is unable to send out images or videos, which have kept their many fans up to date with progress so far in the race.
Vignale added: “The main thing is that we’d like to say that we are all well, despite not being able to talk with our families. Each one of us wants to send a big ‘hi’ to our nearest and dearest.
“We hope to solve this problem as quickly as possible – there’s still a long way to go in this leg.”
Despite their challenges, MAPFRE were very much in the thick of the battle to finish first in Auckland after the 5,264-nautical mile (nm) stage from Sanya.
At 1240 UTC on Monday, they were in third place some 74.4nm behind Team Brunel (Bouwe Bekking/NED), who were cashing in on their decision to sail north of the rest of the fleet early in the leg. The stronger winds and better angles towards Auckland that decision gave them, has propelled the Dutch boat 64.9nm clear of the main pack led by Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR).
Team Alvimedica (Charlie Enright/USA) are tight behind fourth-placed Dongfeng Race Team (Charles Caudrelier/FRA), the overall race leaders, with Team SCA (Sam Davies/GBR) still sailing north of the rest of the fleet and biding their time before making their own decision to bear south.
Tension is rising
- Big calls to make in Leg 4 challenge
- Winds of up to 30 knots forecast for Sanya departure
SANYA, China, February 5 – Volvo Ocean Race’s six-strong fleet heads out towards Auckland from Sanya for Leg 4 on Sunday with some big calls to make in the latest instalment of a marathon offshore contest which could hardly be more finely poised.
Charles Caudrelier’s (FRA) Dongfeng Race Team have their noses in front by a single point after the stage from Abu Dhabi to Sanya, but know that they could so easily follow the example of Team Brunel (Bouwe Bekking/NED), who could only muster fifth place on the leg to China after winning the previous one.
The Chinese team, which became the first from the world’s most populous nation to win a leg in the 41-year-old race last month, have yet to announce their crew plans for the 5,264-nautical mile trip to Auckland, New Zealand.
These will be unveiled on Friday (February 6) and it will be fascinating to see how many changes they make to a crew which is performing so surprisingly well.
This stage promises to be as absorbing as anything that has proceeded it since the fleet left Alicante on October 11 on the first stage of the nine-leg, nine-month marathon around the world, culminating in Gothenburg, Sweden on June 27.
Rob Greenhalgh, the ultra-experienced watch captain of MAPFRE (GBR), sums up the challenges: “Historically, Leg 4 is a bit of a tricky one. A lot of upwind, a lot of reaching, quite a long leg as well.
“I imagine it will be quite close, certainly up until the Philippines. There’s a few options on routes to take beyond that. Tight reaching angles may see the boats separate a little bit.”
Most of the sailors agree that the Philippines will be a key staging post on a route that takes the boats through the South China Sea and into the Pacific, skirting past eastern Australia.
“Going in the right direction, beyond the Philippines, is key,” said Greenhalgh. “As you start cracking off and reaching, the boats which do the reaching angles fast will make a bit of a jump.”
Bekking, so determined to bury memories of his crew’s 'bloody hopeless' fifth place in the last leg and put Team Brunel back on track, agrees.
“The key point will be at the top of the Philippines. You have to make a decision – how far north you go or how far east,” he said.
“Maybe it doesn’t show straight away, it will only show up after one and a half or two weeks of sailing, but it will be quite critical over there.”
The 51-year-old Dutchman is looking forward to almost perfect sailing conditions from the outset on Sunday as the fleet sails off from Sanya.
“It looks like a very good breeze leaving Sanya – maybe up to 25 to 30 knots - so that’s a bit different than three years ago when the guys were drifting around for a couple days,” he said.
“That’s actually a bit uncomfortable, but at least we’ll make good mileage towards New Zealand so that’s a really good thing.”
Chris Nicholson (AUS) and several members of the Team Vestas Wind crew, whose boat was badly damaged on a reef in the Indian Ocean on November 29 during Leg 2, will watch the departure in Sanya.
The skipper from Lake Macquarie, New South Wales, reported on Thursday that Vestas Wind had arrived at the Persico yard in Bergamo, Italy, and the first stages of the rebuild were now underway with a hoped-for return to the race in June.
Meantime, the latest round of the In-Port Race Series - this one named the Team Vestas Wind In-Port Race - will be held on Saturday with Team SCA (Sam Davies/GBR) aiming to continue their good form following victory in Abu Dhabi.