Sunday, December 4, 2011

Volvo Ocean Race - Leg 1

If you've read back over some of my first posts from 2010, you'd see that in a former life I was a sailmaker in San Diego spending most of my life on boats. I was in San Diego for 6 years and spent a good chunk of that at North Sails, West Marine and working on boats with my good friend Joe Grieser who now heads up Ballard Sails in Seattle. (

I still consider the years I spent making sails as some of the most memorable of my life. I got to sail and race on so many different boats I lost count. I raced on small boats like Lasers and 420's with SDSU Sailing Team and Capri 14's on Tuesday nights on Mission Bay. I raced on mid sized boats like J/105's, J/80's, Etchells and a Beneteau 36.7. I spent a lot of time on big boats as well like a J/125, J/160, Santa Cruz 52, a gaggle of Farr's, Perry 65 and an R/P 50. I even crewed on a charter IACC America's Cup yacht for a year.

I also had the chance to make sails for some of the most famous boats out there. I made sails for the late Roy Disney's record breaking Pyewacket and maxi yacht Sagamore. I even got to service the sails for Jim Clark's 156 foot sloop Hyperion.

During that time I also had the distinct privilege to build sails for the 2000 America's Cup and 2001 Volvo Ocean Race. The sails I worked on for the Volvo Ocean Race were on that year's winner Illbruck. Because of this history, I still have a special interest in these two races that I believe are at the pinnacle of yacht racing.

I blogged about my trip to the America's Cup World Series in San Diego a few weeks ago. But the current edition of the Volvo Ocean Race is also going on.

The VOR sends professional crews on a 9 leg, round the world epic in 70 foot purpose built boats. They are the absolute state of the art for ocean racers and sail through some of the most dangerous oceans in the world. They battle weather, waves, fatigue and even pirates! Its a true test of technology and human performance and its easy to be captivated by these modern seafarers.

Leg one from Alicante, Spain to Cape Town, South Africa just ended. There is an awesome 60 minute recap here:

With only 6 teams entered I thought that this year's race would be a snoozer. But so far it has been anything but! Only 5 hours into the race Team Abu Dhabi lost their rig. Then Team Sanya was impaled and lost a good chunk of carbon on the hull. Both teams had to withdraw from the leg. Race leader and only American entry, Puma, then lost their rig in a remote part of the south Atlantic. When all was said and done, it was the Spanish entry Telefonica taking first blood and scoring the win for the first open ocean leg. The scramble is now on for the teams with damage to get their rides in order for the next leg. Spare masts need to be tuned and Sanya's hull will have a 4 meter section of carbon completely replaced.

After an in-port race in Cape Town, the boats head up the east African coast to Abu Dhabi. Its here that pirates may actually be an issue as they pass the Somali coast an venture into the Arabian Sea. It will be interesting to see if the teams who suffered damage race a bit gun shy or if they'll go full bore into the leg trying to regain precious points lost due to retiring early in leg 1.

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