At the end of the 3rd leg of the VOR the boats arrived into Sanya with Dongfeng taking 1st place. Once the dust had settled the mad scramble started to try to analyse just what Dong Feng are doing that gives them that tiny edge the leg win and first place overall in this the toughest one design yacht race ever run
An interesting point to ponder and certainly one that has the other crews talking is why the Chinese entry has broken the padeyes used for sheeting the large Code sails off the outrigger on a number of occasions. What are they doing differently that is causing such high loads but giving them a speed edge. There are plenty of theories around but no one has a definite answer.
The one design racing has meant that it has been very rare for any of the boats to break away from the fleet and sail their own race. Even with the weather routing giving various options over a leg the fleet would rather remain close together to enable them to cover each other and minimise the risk of getting left behind. It also works from a point of view of being able to study the other boats set up and sail choices for various conditions and wind strengths making the racing even tighter.
So why have the girls not had a spot on the podium on an offshore leg yet? They have the same boat as everyone else but are able to carry two more crew members. Does the extra weight that this brings put them at a disadvantage? Its unlikely, however it does appear that on each leg they have decided to split from the fleet looking for possible passing options based on the forecasts rather than basing decisions on what the rest of the boats are doing. With the amazing amount of talent they have on-board it cant be long before they get a podium place on one of the offshore legs to complement their great finishes in the inshore races so far.
At the end of the day there is also a fair amount of luck involved; which boat is unlucky enough to run into a fishing net or a plastic bag at night when they can’t see it, who is forced to tack at the wrong moment in the shipping channels or who just pushes a little to hard getting through the squalls and light winds of the doldrums and ends up stuck in a windless hole longer than the rest of the fleet and has to play catch up hoping that the others will make the same mistake. All these variables have made this a fascinating race to watch and with out a doubt probably the toughest race ever both physically and mentally for the crews.
The next leg to Auckland will take the boats across the equator once again and will be a lot more about straight line speed. This leg will be slightly less demanding on the navigators and crew with regards to traffic and inshore sailing, however the course to the top of the Philippines will be predominantly upwind in potentially boat breaking conditions before they are able to crack sheets and “send it” south in the trade winds. The leg will be won by the boat that makes the least mistakes and the navigator that has done his homework and gets the weather calls right.
Who would you put your money on????