There has been a change of course for Charles Caudrelier and his crew on board the Volvo Ocean 65 Dongfeng, now heading for Hong Kong as forecasted weather scuppers plan to complete training leg to Auckland, New Zealand in time.
But now there is time for some fast downwind and reaching conditions, as the training of the Chinese crew and boat work-up continues in earnest…
Best-laid plans are not easily adhered to in the sport of offshore sailing and such is the case for the Volvo Ocean 65 Dongfeng currently on their training leg from Sanya, China to Auckland, New Zealand. Charles Caudrelier and his crew left Sanya on 22nd March with an estimated time of arrival around the eighth – 10th April. Donfgeng faced strong upwind conditions of around 20-25 knots which have eased in the last few days as Dongfeng gained more miles to the east but, unfortunately, the latest weather information reveals more upwind in lighter airs, and the estimated time of arrival to Auckland extending by another 10-12 days. Ultimately there is now a risk Dongfeng could miss her shipping date from Auckland to take her to the States.
The decision has been taken to instead sail to Hong Kong to take advantage of the good downwind weather conditions and training optimisation for the Chinese crew on board: 'We are in a training session and not in delivery mode from point A to B,' said Team Principal, Bruno Dubois. 'We managed to accumulate a lot of upwind data so far in order to optimise our sail cross over, but for the last two days we have been sailing on port tack in 10 knots of breeze with little to do - this is not the Volvo Ocean Race nor the best way to train our Chinese crew.
'We have been looking at the routing to reach New Zealand and the weather is simply not looking good enough to justify spending another 20 days in that direction and risk the chance of missing our shipping date. Our plan is now to stay in the good breeze we have in this part of the ocean to achieve good downwind tests and push our crew more,' concluded Dubois.
The team are, of course, disappointed not to pit stop in Auckland this time and thank the Volvo Ocean Race Auckland Stopover and the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron for their support and help in planning for the team’s arrival. The distance to Hong Kong is approximately 1,800 miles but Charles and the crew plan to make good use of these downwind conditions: 'We have a new testing plan and we have a lot of work to do on the next days,' wrote Charles. 'We will work on crossover between the different gennakers and our downwind VMG in 8-16 knots. We have a lot of work to find the good trimming in this range with the sail trim but also keel trim. We will also have the chance to do many manoeuvres and ‘peeling’ exercises with my Chinese crew as we change between the different types of sails, downwind and reaching. To achieve that we go now straight in the direction of the Philippines with the goal to spend more time in the strong wind between Taiwan and Philippines.'
The team plan to arrive in Hong Kong around eighth to 10th April and ship the boat directly to the USA ahead of their planned transatlantic in full race mode.