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Ask Libby: The ritual of the Volvo OR Race Sched

by Libby Greenhalgh and Sail-World NZ 16 Jan 2018 02:00 PST 16 January 2018
Leg 4, Melbourne to Hong Kong, day 4 Libby Greenhalgh and Grant Wharington looking at the position report on board Sun Hung Kai / Scallywag © Konrad Frost / Volvo Ocean Race. 05 January

Every six hours, the seven boats in the Volvo Ocean Race get their position report and get to see who is doing what to whom and where.

Ashore, race aficionados and media receive the same spreadsheet - sometimes more regularly.

Libby Greenhalgh (GBR) is a top meteorologist, and has worked with British Olympic teams. She's also SHK Scallywag's navigator - role she filled in the last Volvo Ocean Race for the womens crew - Team SCA.

She tells how the four times a day ritual is played out, and what the numbers actually mean:

The nervous excitement of being in the lead means our world even more so revolves around the sched (position report).

Much like you at home we get a position of the boats every 6 hours at 0700, 1300, 1900, 0100. The actual position reported is from 1254, why 1254 and not on the hour I don't know, it would work much more seamlessly in my routing software if it was on the hour like the weather!!!

Typically it lands in the inbox at 3 mins past the hour but more recently the reports have been a little tardy, up to 4 mins later which as you can imagine feels like forever.

The Sched routine normally starts at about 10 to the hour. Witty sits at the comms PC ready for the email, he places the headset on so he can tell the crew on deck and then the waiting game begins.

By the time it reaches on the hour the crew have probably asked 2 or 3 times is it in yet and the response is, we will tell you when it is in. We then look over the previous Scheds, discuss our 6 hour average, how we are doing relative to our routing and then have some guesses at where and what people have done and what the distance between us and the next boat will be.

At 3 mins past the hour when the Sched hasn't arrived we start checking that our comms system is still working and that everything is on; occasionally the report comes in earlier on Sat-C so we quickly check that.

Once it is in, the fun begins as Witty announces the gains and losses through the fleet, what it appears they have done and where they are relative to us.

What do we get in our position report? Latitude and Longitude; Wind Speed and Direction at time of report; Boat speed at time of report; Miles to go to whatever waypoint VOR have chosen (probably the finish line right now which is actually quite realistic); Difference in miles from the leader.

We can import this into our routing software and calculate a point to point average speed over ground and average course over ground. We can't see where they have gybed or what wiggles they have been making - that is all open to interpretation.

As scheds continue to be positive, it is confidence building in how we are sailing the boat and that the forecast seems to be in line.

Anyway better go as it is T minus something to the next one and things are changing!!!

Libby at the Scallywag nav desk.

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