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Go Back   SailNet Community > Contributing Authors > Racing Articles
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Old 09-23-2001
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Dan Dickison is on a distinguished road
Tracking the Volvo Ocean Race


And they're off. The VOR fleet got underway in 8 to 10 knots of wind with an enormous spectator fleet on hand for the occasion.
The Volvo Ocean Race, one of the sport's most high-profile events, took to the water yesterday just off Southampton, UK. With an enormous crowd of well-wishers on hand—an estimated 1,000 spectator craft—to witness the start, the fleet of eight VO 60s made its way across the starting line in The Solent and out to sea. After the gun was fired by Prince Andrew, Gunnar Krantz's Team SEB crossed the starting line first with the A5 reaching kite up in 8 to 10 knots of northerly breeze, followed by Amer Sports One with Grant Dalton in command and Dee Smith calling the shots. In third was News Corp, followed by Tyco, djuice dragons, illbruck and then ASSA ABLOY. On board the all-women entry, Amer Sports Too, the spinnaker split completely in half just after it was set, immediately leaving the women in catch-up mode.

The ensuing weeks will help to answer the long-standing questions regarding competitive supremacy among the entries in this elite fleet. Though American John Kostecki, the skipper of illbruck, said everything he could to dissuade pundits from labeling his team the early favorite, his initial strategy has begun to to distinguish his team. Not long after the start, both illbruck and Team SEB had broken from the pack to steer a more southerly route.

Now that the fleet is no longer visible on the water, and won't be until the lead boats close on the shores of Cape Town, South Africa (the first of eight layover ports), here's a an overview of what you'll need to know and how best to follow the action:


Gunnar Krantz and his crew aboard Team SEB, the narrowest boat in the fleet, headed south shortly after the start, followed closely by John Kostecki and the illbruck team.
Course
    Competitors in the VOR fleet can't simply sail straight south toward Cape Town for two reasons: 1. it's not a logical route given the predominant winds and currents they'll encounter; and 2. the sailing instructions impose two waypoints that must be left to port—Fernando de Noronha and Trinidade—both islands off the coast of South America. The 7,500 miles of this initial leg make up what will likely be the most tactically challenging expanses of the race. The crews will need to negotiate not only the elusive doldrums, but the North and South Atlantic highs, the often arduous Bay of Biscay, and the unpredictable realm near the finish, to say nothing of commercial and recreational traffic and nearly-unnoticeable floating objects.

Updates    There's never been a better time to be an offshore race aficionado because the VOR will be tracked, chronicled, and catalogued like no other event before. SailNet will provide regular updates and analyses in our News and Features sections, but if you're jonesing for up-to-the hour reports and not adverse to shaking loose some cash, you can opt to purchase the software from Virtual Spectator and use their three-dimensional Internet viewer to follow the action that way (www.virtualspectator.com). According to its promotional literature, this subscription-based viewer will features regular position data, weather, editorial content, photos, and audio.


Grant Dalton and crew aboard Amer Sports One showing their speed by taking the initial lead not long after the start. 
Of course there's always the official race website (www.volvooceanrace.org), which will provide position updates every six hours once the race begins. The site also offers a fair selection of photos, audio, e-mailed communiques, and feature articles.

Race watchers who are intent on following a particular entry should be aware that each of the eight teams have their own well produced and informative websites that appear to be updated on at least a daily basis, and most contend that they'll be updated more frequently now that the race has begun. Here's a concise list with the addresses for those websites:

Team illbruck         www.illbruck-challenge.com
Team SEB             www.teamseb.com
djuice dragons        www.dragons.djuice.com
Assa Abloy            www.assaabloyracingteam.com
Team Tyco            www.teamtyco.com
Team News Corp.  www.teamnewscorp.com
Amer Sports One   www.nautorchallenge.com
Amer Sports Two   www.nautorchallenge.com


The VOR competitors tear through waters stirred up by an immense spectator fleet in the early minutes of the race. From left, djuice dragons, Amer Sports Too, ASSA ABLOY, Amer Sports One, illbruck, Team News Corp (partially hidden).
So what else can you do to keep yourself informed? If you own a cell phone or a personal digital assistant (PDA) like a Palm Pilot, you can register to get automatic updates. The international mobile Internet portal, djuice, owned by the Norwegian company
Telenor, is now the official provider of mobile Internet services for the VOR. djuice, also the sponsor of djuice dragons, will provide news and essential information about the progress of the boats. Just log on to the official race website or the djuice dragon site and register your cell phone number or PDA identity. Let the competition begin!



Keeping Count

Though there are only eight boats and a total of 97 crew members racing, the VOR is nonetheless an enormous event with a long list of stories to be told. In order to get a more comprehensive handle on this race, SailNet's editors offer the following quantitative analysis:


7,500,000price in US dollars Volvo paid Whitbread for title to the event
250,000,000amount in US dollars sources say will be invested by way of the event
8number of teams racing
26number of New Zealanders sailing in the race
10number of Americans aboard entries in the race
12number of crew allowed aboard each boat
13number of crew allowed aboard the all-women Amer Sports Too
38number of sails permitted for the entire event
16number of sails allowed aboard for each leg
9number of legs in the race
32,500overall length of the course in miles
449.24most miles logged in 24 hours in previous editions of the race
15average wind speed in knots crews are likely to experience over 9 months
5,000average daily consumption in calories by each crew
4number of people who have perished in previous editions
3designers represented in the current fleet
7average number of winches on each boat
2,500amount of water ballast in kilograms allowed on each side of the boat
28number of people represented in weight by water ballast
52age of the oldest racers—Jean-Yves Bernot, Roger Nilson, and Ross Field





Suggested Reading:

Volvo Ocean Race Preview by Dan Dickison

Volvo's Class of 2001 by SailNet

Volvo Ocean Race Six Months and Counting by Dan Dickison

Buying Guide: Liferafts

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