VOR, Vendee, AC and KWRW updates—Sailing news from the U.S. and beyond

2014/15 Volvo Leg 1 from Alicante to Recife
While the weather has been 'brisk' in Seattle as of late (read: New England-like), the offshore-racing world has been aglow with the news that the first stop-over in the fully crewed, around-the-world Volvo Ocean Race 2014/2015 will be Recife, Brazil, thus breaking the race’s longstanding Leg One tradition of sailing from Spain to South Africa. Also exciting is the news that a boat from the Brazilian state of Pernambuco will be competing in the next edition of the VOR.

'Today’s announcement of the Pernambuco team and Recife stopover are fantastic news for the Race,' said Knut Frostad, CEO of the VOR. 'I’m delighted to see the Race strengthen our ties with Brazil, Recife and Pernambuco in this way.'

Interestingly, this means that Brazil will be hosting both the VOR and the World Cup in the same year…less than two years before they host the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. 'Brazil is the capital of world sport with the World Cup coming up in 2014 and the Rio Olympics to follow in 2016 and it's a real thrill to be bringing the Race to a country with such passion for sport,' said Tom Touber, COO of the VOR.

Y-structure looking aft with wingsail support in the centre foreground - Emirates Team NZ - Media Day January 17, 2012

And in America's Cup news, Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) invited the media to their base for a press day, allowing full access to some aspects of their second-generation AC72 (namely, the shed with the hulls/crossbeams platform), while restricting access to other areas (the wing shed). The Protocol is specific about how much modification or 'repair' work a team can make to a wing, and, since ETNZ still has a perfectly good first-generation wing, the team’s plan calls for seriously updating Wing 1 so that, eventually, it will be identical to Wing 2, which the team is currently building.

Grant Dalton (left) and Nick Holroyd in front of the new AC72 - Emirates Team NZ - Media Day January 17, 2012

'They will be so interchangeable the guys won’t even know which one is in the boat,’ said ETNZ’s Technical Director, Nick Holroyd. 'The wingsails are designed for the San Francisco weather bell-curve, which centers on 15-16 knots. Your ability to twist the wing and de-power it is very, very important. If you were running these boats in Valencia, Spain you might look at a three-element, two-slot type of wingsail. This wingsail package is very much tailored to the winds that we are expecting in San Francisco.' Get the full story, inside.

Meanwhile, in the non-stop-and-solo around-the-world Vendee Globe Race, the competition continues to be relentless, especially at the front of the pack. As of this writing, Francois Gabart ('Macif') is leading Armel Le Cleac’h ('Banque Populaire') by just over 90 miles, which is a serious leaderboard tumble for the young Gabart compared to his impressive lead last week. No doubt this compression was a result of different experiences getting through the Doldrums, but you can bet your last roll of duct tape that each skipper is carefully studying the approach to France and seriously contemplating their end-game strategy.

Armel Le Cléac’h, Banque Populaire - 2012 Vendee Globe

'In the big picture I did well,' said Le Cléac’h said about his (ballpark) 200-mile gains. 'I hope I’ll be able to use this great crossing for the finish. Everything remains possible... The journey is still long and there are many dangers on our way to Les Sables d’Olonne.’

Key West Race Week - Farr 400 One Design Class Regatta 2012
Farr 400

Closer to home, the Fortunate Few will get to experience next week’s Key West Race Week, which is shaping up to be an interesting on-the-water contest involving talented players large and small. Impressively, 39 of the brand-new J/70s are signed up to race, making them the largest one-design fleet in this year’s event, followed in numbers by the Melges 24 class (23 boats) and the Melges 32 class (11 boats). At the top of the food chain are the two mini maxis ('Bella Mente' and 'Shockwave'), as well as six TP/IRC52s and plenty of 'fast 40s'. Be sure to get the full preview, inside, and stand by for Key West updates, as they unfurl.

And finally, don’t miss the latest reports from the 2014/2015 Global Ocean Race, the upcoming Round Barbados Race Series 2013 and the Pineapple Cup–Montego Bay Race 2013.

May the four winds blow you safely home,