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Volvo Ocean Race adds full Southern Ocean Leg and 5000nm to new course


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  29 Jun 2016


Volvo Ocean Race adds full Southern Ocean Leg and 5000nm to new course

30th March, 2015. Volvo Ocean Race. Leg 5, Auckland, New Zealand to Itajai, Brazil. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing rounds Cape Horn.  Rick Tomlinson/Volvo Ocean Race ©
Volvo Ocean Race has announced a new course for the 2017/18 round the world event.

Several major changes are planned including a return to a full Southern Ocean leg, and the addition of a massive Leg 5 of 13,300nm - the longest leg ever sailed in the Volvo Ocean Race. By comparison a minimum circumnavigation around the planet is approximately 21,600nm to be recognised as, a record for the course, by WRSSC.

The Volvo Ocean Race Course for 2017/18 has been extended from 40,000nm to 45,000nm and will accommodate the traditional Leg 2 from Cape Town, South Africa to Auckland (except what was Leg 2 is now Leg 3).

After that two new legs come into play as the fleet sails to Hong Kong for Leg 4 and then from Hong Kong to Itajai, South America for Leg 5.

After Itajai, the race follows the contemporary route with stops in USA and countries in the current the European Union, before finishing in The Hague.

The course has been revealed in the Notice of Race ahead of a media conference on June 29, 2016

Tony Rae nursing the boat through monster Southern Ocean waves onboard Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand during leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Auckland, New Zealand to Itajai, Brazil. (Credit: Hamish Hooper/Camper ETNZ/Volvo Ocean Race)  Volvo Ocean Race ©

The extract from the Notice of Race states:

The Volvo Ocean Race 2017 – 2018 will consist of 9 ocean Legs, a maximum of 10 In-Port races and approximately 40 Pro-Am races.

There will generally be four Pro-Am races in each Stopover, the dates and times shall be contained in the Calendar.
There is an In-Port race scheduled in each Stopover, the dates and times shall be contained in the Calendar

1. Alicante to Lisbon an approximate distance of 700 nm.
2. Lisbon to Cape Town leaving Fernando de Noronha Island to port an approximate distance of 7,000 nm.
3. Cape Town to Auckland leaving Cape Leeuwin to port, Kerguelen Island to starboard an approximate distance of 7,600 nm.
4. Auckland to Hong Kong an approximate distance of 5,700 nm.
5. Hong Kong to Itajai an approximate distance of 13,400 nm.
6. Itajai to Newport an approximate distance of 5,600 nm.
7. Newport to Cardiff an approximate distance of 3,300 nm.
8. Cardiff to Gothenburg leaving Wales, England and Scotland to starboard an approximate distance of 1,230 nm.
9. Gothenburg to The Hague an approximate distance of 520 nm.

The total distance for the Legs is approximately 45,050 nm.

Stopover designations are:
Haulout; Cape Town, Auckland, Hong Kong, Itajai and Cardiff. Non-Haulout; Alicante, Lisbon, Newport, Gothenburg and The Hague. Non-Rig out; Alicante, Lisbon, Newport, Gothenburg and The Hague. Pit-stop; Lisbon

Onboard Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing - Justin Slattery drives Azzam under and through a wave in the Southern Ocean - Volvo Ocean Race 2015  Matt Knighton/Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing

The new course includes Asia, but eliminates the vexed route necessary to accommodate Abu Dhabi - which announced it was pulling out of the Volvo Ocean Race after two years as a stopover.

That move eliminates several wrinkles from the course which had caused some issues in the previous two editions.

Starting from South Africa, the race fleet will not be anywhere near the Cargados Carajos Shoals in the middle of the Indian Ocean, with which Team Vestas Wind had a terrain closure ten days into the second leg, en route to Abu Dhabi. The course will now encourage the fleet to head south into the Southern Ocean and the Roaring Forties which were the hallmark of the original four leg course of the Whitbread Round the World Race. However to prevent the fleet diving too deep into the Southern Ocean chasing the shortest course they will be forced to pass to the north of the Kerguelen Islands, midway between South Africa and the SW tip of Australia.

The move back to the 7,600nm Leg 3, will also keep the fleet away from the menace of pirates and other security issues that span the Indian Ocean and Straits of Hormuz through which the fleet was transported by ship on the 2011/12 edition. In the 2014/15 edition, the race boats sailed in a dog-legged course to stay away from the Somalian based pirates and were under escort for part of the leg.

The one-design Volvo Ocean 65 keel riding on lift generated by the angled canting keel  Rick Tomlinson / Team SCA

The light airs delights of the old Leg 3 from Abu Dhabi to Sanya, China will be avoided as the fleet had to ghost along the Indian and Pakistani coasts and through the Straits of Malacca between Malaysia and Indonesia as they headed to a turning point off Singapore. That all goes with the return to the Southern Ocean.

Crossing the Equator will also be reduced to four crossings from five under the old course - along with the usual leg decider on Leg 3 in the Straits of Malacca, with its congested shipping lanes, thunderstorms and crucial choice of a coast.

The tempests of the start of Leg 4 from Sanya to Auckland will also be avoided, with the direction of the course being reversed at its start initially, as the fleet will head out of Auckland, past the Pacific Islands and then turning to Hong Kong. However the fleet must still face the vagaries of the tail-end of new Leg 4 as the fleet races from the top of the Philippines to the leg finish in Hong Kong.

The new Leg 5 from Hong Kong to Itajay in South America, via Cape Horn is anyone's guess at this stage, and will have the navigational strategists working overtime. The former Tea Clipper route used by sailing ships in between Hong Kong and England traveled in the opposite direction via Cape of Good Hope (South Africa) as it was about 3,000nm shorter than via Cape Horn.

PUMA Ocean Racing navigates through Fiji's ìVatu Ira channel as they take the lead on Leg 5 of the 2008/09 Volvo Ocean Race  MusketCoveFiji

At 13,400nm Leg 5 is the longest in Volvo Ocean Race history. It is longer than the previous longest leg from Qingdao to Rio de Janeiro sailed in the 2008/09 edition which was 1,000nm shorter at 12,300nm.

That leg had the boats sailing through the Fiji Islands on their way to Cape Horn and was deemed to be too long by the crews then sailing the faster Volvo 70's.

Once in Itajai, Brazil, the rest of the legs will be similar to the old route with new nuances.

With 18 months left until the race start, it seems that six and a maximum of seven entries can be expected - given that the existing fleet of six Volvo 60's is being re-used.

Sailing into the horizon - Caudrelier at the helm as Dongfeng sail north towards the Pakistani coast on Leg three, Day 3 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15.  Sam Greenfield / Volvo Ocean Race

the new course will keep Volvo Ocean race boats well away from the Cargados Carajos Shoals, Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean.   Volvo Ocean Race ©

Groupama Sailing Team and Team Telefonica battle it out in the Strait of Malacca, during leg 3 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Abu Dhabi, UAE to Sanya, China. (Credit: Yann Riou/Groupama Sailing Team/Volvo Ocean Race)  Yann Riou/Groupama Sailing Team © /Volvo Ocean Race

Dongfeng exits the Straits of Malacca - Leg 3, Volvo Ocean Race -   Volvo Ocean Race ©

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