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 handan estimated 1,000 spectator craftto 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
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:
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 portFernando de Noronha and Trinidadeboth 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.
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
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 CountThough 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:
|7,500,000||price in US dollars Volvo paid Whitbread for title to the event|
|250,000,000||amount in US dollars sources say will be invested by way of the event|
|8||number of teams racing|
|26||number of New Zealanders sailing in the race|
|10||number of Americans aboard entries in the race|
|12||number of crew allowed aboard each boat|
|13||number of crew allowed aboard the all-women Amer Sports Too|
|38||number of sails permitted for the entire event|
|16||number of sails allowed aboard for each leg|
|9||number of legs in the race|
|32,500||overall length of the course in miles|
|449.24||most miles logged in 24 hours in previous editions of the race|
|15||average wind speed in knots crews are likely to experience over 9 months|
|5,000||average daily consumption in calories by each crew|
|4||number of people who have perished in previous editions|
|3||designers represented in the current fleet|
|7||average number of winches on each boat|
|2,500||amount of water ballast in kilograms allowed on each side of the boat|
|28||number of people represented in weight by water ballast|
|52||age of the oldest racersJean-Yves Bernot, Roger Nilson, and Ross Field|