Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing has retired from Leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race on Friday having returned to racing early on Thursday following a dismasting on the first night.
The decision leaves four of the fleet of six still racing the first stage, the 6,500-nautical mile leg from Alicante, Spain to Cape Town. Team Sanya also pulled out after suffering substantial damage to the boat's hull on Sunday.
For the remaining sailors competing in the Volvo Ocean Race, the question is a simple one—go east or west? While taking the more easterly (inshore) course along the coast of Africa can potentially mean fewer miles of sailing, the wildcards are wind pressure and a reasonable passage through the Doldrums. According to sources who have sailed this leg before, boats that head inshore must eventually punch offshore in order to chase pressure and a fast passage across the equator. That said, Franck Cammas, the skipper of Groupama and the only skipper who has committed to the eastern track, is currently making trees on the entire fleet.
Ricgard Gladwell, our Editor at Large provides an interesting routing analysis (in a story which will hit our site in a little while) and it will be interesting to see how this decision shakes out in coming days as teams attempt to negotiate the sticky, often-frustrating Doldrums.
Stay tuned, and be sure to check out the VOR media blitz, inside this issue.
Meanwhile, more trouble is brewing in the already trouble-ridden International Laser Class Association. While the class struggles to deal with internal intellectual property rights issues and licensing disagreements, Laser sailors are dealing with mast sections that have been breaking with increasing regularity. Now, just a few weeks before Perth 2011—the key qualifying regatta for many aspiring Olympic sailors—it appears that the new sail and mast section, which had been one of sailing's worst-kept secrets, will not be ready for prime time even in 2012, and that sailors will be competing using the troublesome older rigs. One can only hope that mast failures do not impact Olympic dreams. Be sure to check out part one of Rob Kothe's in-depth report, in this issue.
Speaking of international competition, James 'Ding' Schoonmaker was awarded ISAF's prestigious Beppe Croce Trophy, which honors those who have made an outstanding contribution to the sport. Schoonmaker was presented his trophy from ISAF President, Göran Petersson. 'Since 1968, Ding has been an active member of the International Yacht Racing Union and now of course ISAF,' said Petersson. 'During his long and distinguished career with us, Ding has brought his wealth of experience and knowledge to so many aspects of the sport.' Schoonmaker's involvement in sailing dates back to the 1940s and includes a storied career sailing Stars, before becoming involved with ISAF in 1968. 'It has been a great pleasure to have the opportunity to participate as a competitor as well as an official in Olympic events. It is a great privilege to be honored for serving the sport that I love.'
Also inside, get the full download on Sail Melbourne, where the U.S.team of Stuart McNay and Graham Biehl is leading the Mens 470 Class, ahead of the World Champions, the Clipper Around the World Race and the upcoming America's Cup World Series' San Diego event. Also, be sure to check in with the Transat Jacques Vabre fleet, where Jean Pierre Dick (Virbac-Paprec 3) and Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) are locking horns in the hyper-competitive IMOCA 60 class, with only a few miles separating these two boats after many, many miles of storm-fraught racing.
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