Alicante, Spain: The clock is ticking down for the teams in the Volvo Ocean Race, with Thursday, July 21 marking exactly 100 days to go before the first points are awarded in the opening In-Port race in Alicante.
All the teams are busy fine-tuning their preparations for a race that will cover 39,000 nautical miles, visiting 10 countries and finishing in Galway, Ireland in July 2012.
How exactly do you use the final 100 days of preparation for such a demanding nine-month test? Read on for a snapshot of what the teams are doing to put themselves in the best possible shape for what should be one of the most competitive editions of this classic race.
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing training in Cascais:
The 100-day milestone coincides with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing starting serious testing of the team’s brand new Volvo Open 70, ‘Azzam’ in Cascais, Portugal. In August, the boat and the team will get a competitive run-out in the Fastnet Race, where rivals Groupama and Team Sanya will also compete.
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing Skipper Ian Walker: “We know some of the other Volvo Ocean Race teams will be there for the Fastnet and we’ll all be looking to flex our muscles without letting too much out of the bag.
“It will be great to test ourselves against other teams and benchmark how far we have come, and equally importantly, how far is still left to go. It is also a welcome break from training and to will help rekindle that competitive drive which will serve us well over the coming 100 days.
“With our 2,000 mile qualifier, the Fastnet Race and the delivery back to Cascais for our final training run-in, we should clock-up over 5,000 sea miles in the next month alone.”
Telefónica raring to go in Lanzarote:
Team Telefónica have been training in Lanzarote, Spain, for two months, making the most of the windy conditions in this part of the Canary Islands. In September, Iker Martínez’s crew will leave the Marina Rubicón for Sanxenxo, in Galicia, where they have been sailing for years.
Telefónica skipper Iker Martínez: “We are starting to feel confident. Little by little we are getting to know each other and the boat is starting to feel like one of us.
“It doesn't feel so strange any more being in a boat so different from the last one we had, which will sail against us in the hands of Mike Sanderson (of Team Sanya). It's odd that we'll be competing against the old Telefónica Blue, even if she does have a new name.”
PUMA start new phase in Canary Islands:
Another team will be training in Lanzarote this summer: PUMA Ocean Racing, powered by BERG Propulsion, who arrived in the Canary Islands on Friday. Launching their boat in Newport on June 28, the team sailed to Europe – and won the Transatlantic Race in IRC Class 1 and IRC Overall. A new training phase now starts for Mar Mostro in the Puerto Calero Marina.
PUMA Ocean Racing skipper Ken Read: “We have really tried to treat every day like its crucial, and these final 100 days are no more important than the beginning days were for this program. I believe this is a good thing. If we were behind in our planning or had a problem, the final days would surely carry quite a bit more significance.
“Final 100 days? Hopefully, they will just be treated like another day in the office… 100 times.”
PUMA are one of three teams to have completed the qualification process with over 100 days to go. The other two are CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand and Groupama Sailing Team.
CAMPER heading to Europe:
CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand just left their Auckland base. Chris Nicholson and his sailors loaded their Volvo Open 70 to a Maersk Line container ship on Tuesday after a three-month testing period in Auckland. The team will now have a couple of weeks off before reuniting with CAMPER in the United Kingdom.
CAMPER skipper Chris Nicholson: “We have covered more than 8,000 miles of sail testing from the tip of the tropics to the edge of the Southern ocean. Now is a good time for some rest and relaxation for everyone.
“I am also really pleased to have seen the whole team gel. Many people say this, but it is clear that underneath all that is happening here, we have a group of people who are friends. After spending day after day with each other, working long hours and under pressure for deadlines, we all still want to go for a beer, and that’s a good sign for the next nine months.”
Meanwhile, in Lorient, France, Groupama Sailing Team are going through a three-week refit after a first sail-testing phase.
Groupama in home territory:
Groupama completed the 2,000 mile qualification sail at the end of June and the team are now back at their Lorient base. The team now have their sights set on the Fastnet Race.
Groupama skipper Franck Cammas: “We were one month late when we launched the boat this spring but it’s all fine today. We managed to qualify and to improve the boat after sailing here. We didn’t break anything and the gauge controls went very well.
“Groupama 4 is not in race mode yet, but we are working on it. On August 14 we will take part in the Fastnet Race in Cowes before coming back to our base in Lorient. We will head to Alicante at the end of September.”
Team Sanya heading for Fastnet:
Team Sanya only announced their participation in the Volvo Ocean Race in June and the team, skippered by 2005-06 champion, Mike Sanderson, are actively recruiting the crew that will contest the race – including at least one sailor from China.
The other big task on the team’s hands is to refit the Volvo Open 70 Telefónica Blue boat from the last race. That is going ahead now in the UK, with the team due to take part in the Fastnet, with rivals Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and Groupama.
Team Sanya skipper Mike Sanderson (speaking late last month): “This campaign is very late in getting going, and there is no doubt that we are handicapped by having to use an older generation boat.
“That said, we know we need to pitch the boat’s performance into a corner and Telefónica Blue last time was very quick in the light and moderate conditions and potent during inshore racing.
“Seeing the new boats launched so far, it appears she still might be okay in these conditions. Only time will tell of course, but we do feel that she will offer us a great opportunity to have our ‘day in the sun’.”
Further information: www.VolvoOceanRace.com
World Marine Guide has details on marinas on all the Canarian islands