Leg 9 of the Volvo Ocean Race got underway on Sunday from Newport, Rhode Island, bound for Cardiff, Wales. Late into this edition of the VOR and with a very tight battle at the top of the leaderboard, the transatlantic leg carries added significance as it’s the final double-points leg of the race. After a stopover that was mostly cold and foggy with very little breeze, the Sunday morning start from Newport saw brilliant sunshine and usable breeze to get the fleet out of Narragansett Bay and out to sea. Once again, Newport proved to be a spectacular stopover for the race, and massive fleets of spectator boats shadowed the start on Sunday.
A day after winning the in-port race, Team Brunel continued their charge of late by leading the fleet out of Newport. As soon as the boats got out to sea, they began riding a depression that rocketed them toward Wales at 20+ knots of boatspeed and what may have been the defining moment in this leg: whether to head north or south. Team Brunel, AkzoNobel, Vestas/11th Hour Racing and Scallywag chose the southerly option while Dongfeng, MAPFRE and Turn the Tide on Plastic chose the northerly option. A split of more than 300 miles opened up at one point, with the southerly boats looking good. As of this writing, however, there’s almost nothing in it as both packs of boats are essentially tied on the tracker and beginning to converge on the water.
"I think it’s the first time in this race we’ve seen a split in the fleet this big," said MAPFRE skipper Xabi Fernandez. Xabi’s team is locked in a championship battle with Dongfeng, who not surprisingly are headed in the same direction as MAPFRE. As the fleet begins to encounter their second depression and come back together, they’ve just recently gotten back into full-send conditions and are again averaging 20 knots or more. Leading the southerly pack and at the top of the tracker is Team Brunel, who has finally begun to live up to their pre-race hype in the second half of the Volvo Ocean Race. If Brunel could win this leg and put a few boats between themselves and MAPFRE and Dongfeng, we could essentially have a three-way tie for the overall race lead headed down the home stretch. That’s a big ask, however, as the northerly boats are getting the strongest winds first and have a more direct course for Wales.
The fleet is coming in hot for Europe, and no one’s holding anything back. Blink and you’ll miss it; they should be in Wales by early next week.
Last Saturday was crazy windy (again). While some battled their way to the Farallones and back singlehanded, others fought it out on the Berkeley Circle in San Francisco Yacht Club’s Elite Keel Regatta. On Saturday, Rich Jepsen and crew, sailing aboard Anthony Sandberg’s IOD Cedric, had vang issues forcing them to retire. After solving their vang problems, they were looking forward to Sunday.
Despite mellower conditions the next day, the Supreme Being decided Saturday’s ‘get off the race course’ message hadn’t satisfied the mysterious objective, so the top half the rig came down due to a weather upper shroud failure on the first upwind leg of the first race — Cedric was in first place, by the way. Still, the crew was able to claim three ‘firsts’ of a different sort for the weekend. Luckily no one was hurt, but it’s no fun to go out for a two-race weekend and have every combo of ‘D’ represented on your five-race tally: DNF, DNS, DNC. Reminds us of our grade school report card. This is going to take a little more repair work than Saturday’s vang problem. We hope to see Cedric sailing soon.
After last year’s hurricane season, we all might be paying a little more attention as this year’s season begins on June 1. But Mother Nature doesn’t follow anyone’s calendar but her own. Meteorologist J. McGuinnes of Weather Routing, Inc., informed us that the first Southeast Pacific subtropical cyclone on record occurred the week of May 6, 2018. It was spotted off the coast of Chile and lasted several days, with sustained thunderstorm activity and winds reaching as high as 45 knots (~50mph). According to WRI, this is an extremely rare phenomenon. The formation of tropical/subtropical cyclones in the Southeast Pacific basin is incredibly rare. In fact, no other systems have ever been recorded anywhere close to this recent storm.
It’s not summer yet, but action in the California Delta, on the water and on the waterfront, is heating up. On June 2, roughly 150 boats from all over the western United States will sail upriver from Richmond to Stockton. Most will be racing; maybe 20 or so will be cruising. A few years back, destination host Stockton Sailing Club partnered with the Delta Doo Dah to help grow the Cruising Class. Thus was born the ‘Doo Dah Ditch Run‘.
On Friday, June 1, much of the fleet will gather at Richmond Yacht Club, which hosts the start. RYC serves dinner on Friday nights, and the bar will be open, but bring cash. Call the harbormaster, John, at (510) 234-6959 if you need to make arrangements to bring your boat in. A burrito breakfast with sides is available for $8 on Saturday morning; RYC volunteers ask that you order online in advance. Also on the event storefront, you can purchase bus tickets to aid with logistics for the crew. There’s a bus from SSC to RYC at 6 a.m., and another at 11 p.m.
It’s a long day and 67 miles of sailing, but when that buzzer sounds at the SSC clubhouse, and the crowd on the lawn lets out a cheer, you realize that they’re cheering for you, and you know you’ve really accomplished something. A big party will follow the race, with a BBQ dinner, Mt. Gay rum and other drinks, and a live dance band. We recommend sticking around for breakfast and the awards ceremony on Sunday morning.
After the awards, we plan to hand out some door prizes to official Delta Doo Dah entries (must be present to win). We have a box full of DEET-free insect-repellent products from BugBand to give away, plus four cans of Mini Firefighter, an easy-to-use, less-messy supplement to your USCG-required fire extinguishers.
SSC invites Doo Dah Ditch Run sailors to keep their boats in the harbor for free for up to two weeks after the race. That’s perfect timing for the next Doo Dah event, because two weeks after the Ditch Run, Owl Harbor in Isleton will host their big BBQ shindig on the afternoon of Saturday, June 16. The marina will provide free food and drinks for two people per boat in the marina; additional guests can purchase meal/drink bands for $10 each. Reserve a slip and RSVP for the BBQ at (916) 777-6055. Additionally, Owl Harbor is offering one free night to registered DDD participants with a minimum two-night stay.
The Delta sometimes seems to sailors like it’s dominated by power boats. But when sailors arrive at Owl Harbor or SSC they find themselves right at home amid a forest of masts.