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Sail-World.com USA Newsletter: Eating my hat has never tasted finer

25/06/2018


2018 Race to Alaska: Eating my hat has never tasted finer

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Dongfeng - Leg 11, from Gothenburg to The Hague, Day 02. 22 June, 2018. - photo © Ainhoa Sanchez / Volvo Ocean Race


Dear Recipient Name

Two weeks ago I made a predication in this newsletter that, whilst fully supported by historic precedent, proved to be dead wrong. In writing about the recently concluded Race to Alaska (R2AK) I made the flippant comment that the contest for the $10,000 nailed to a tree (not to mention the battle for the consolation cutlery) would be fought out between seven trimarans and six catamarans, while the rest of the fleet would have an adventurous cruise that would likely fall into the character-building camp.

Yet there I was, in the late hours of Saturday night/wee hours of Sunday morning this past weekend, madly refreshing the R2AK's website, rooting hard for First Federal's Team Sail Like a Girl, sailing aboard a Melges 32, as they made R2AK history in two important ways. First, they broke the three-year standing wisdom that the R2AK can only be won aboard a vessel with multiple hulls, and secondly, they also shattered any silly glass-ceiling notions that the R2AK winner's podium is an all-boys club.

 
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So how did this historic win come to pass? First off, skipper Jeanne Goussev assembled a fantastic crew of can-do female sailors who simply worked harder than everyone else, both before and during the race. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly for determining the winning number of hulls, the Pacific Northwest had been sitting under a massive high-pressure system that sucked the majority of the breeze out of this racecourse, thus seriously emphasizing the human-powered element of the R2AK's cash grab. When the wind shuts off, one's team had better be fit, and they had better have a solid human-powered system in place.

Clearly, First Federal's Team Sail Like a Girl had all of these critical elements, not to mention the grit and gumption needed to travel from Port Townsend, Washington, to Ketchikan, Alaska, at a blistering pace of roughly three or four knots (stickier at times), simply delivering more heart and raw gut to the oars and paddles than their competition, not to mention some smart routing work.

Impressively, the first four boats across the finishing line this year were all monohulls, leaving their multihull competitors to enjoy prolonged cruises up north in boats that - in any other weather scenario - likely would have been the walk-away winners.

While previous R2AK runnings have featured serious wind, potentially boat-breaking seas and plenty of adrenaline-pumping fun for the sailors, in many ways this year's event was a better race, as traditional wisdom previously held that the first boat through Seymour Narrows, where the current can run at 15-16 knots, was the de facto winner. This year's R2AK was a bona fide race worthy of constant web-browser updates and full-scale media consumption.

I'll admit that I have never been so captivated by a race that was contested at less than five knots, nor have I ever enjoyed the taste of my own hat so much as when, at 0017 hours on Sunday morning, First Federal's Team Sail Like a Girl rang the bell arm-in-arm and won the Pacific Northwest's most prestigious adventure-sailing event as their monohull sat tied to the dock and 13 multihulls brought up the fleet's mid-pack contingent.

Sail-World.com extends a huge congratulations to all sailors aboard First Federal's Team Sail Like a Girl, and we tip our (now consumed) hat to the R2AK race organizers for once again creating a highly engaging event.

Dongfeng Race Team win the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18 - photo © Ainhoa Sanchez / Volvo Ocean Race
Dongfeng Race Team win the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18 - photo © Ainhoa Sanchez / Volvo Ocean Race

Speaking of massive engagement, skipper Charles Caudrelier and his Dongfeng Race Team won the final 970 nautical mile sprint from Gothenburg, Sweden, to The Hague, in the Netherlands, thus cementing their overall victory in the 2017/2018 Volvo Ocean Race (VOR), despite the fact that three teams - Dongfeng, Team Brunel and MAPFRE - started this final leg tied on points.

 
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Impressively, Caudrelier and company made a bold call to take a coastal routing into The Hague that proved to be the winning tonic, despite the fact that things only pulled together for the team in the last few miles of the contest.

"We were not in such a good position, but we trusted our choice and we pushed," said an elated Caudrelier in an official VOR press release. "The others didn't follow us, but we believed and we won..."

"We knew that we would fall behind initially and that if it came good it would only be at the end," continued Caudrelier. "The last position report (1300 UTC on Sunday) we were 27 miles from the finish and they were 20 miles and we thought it was over. But then I did a small weather routing and it showed we could end up one mile ahead so I woke everyone up and said, 'let's push!'"

Leg 8 from Itajai to Newport, day 09 on board Dongfeng. 30 April,. Carolijn adjusting the outrigger. - photo © Jeremie Lecaudey / Volvo Ocean Race
Leg 8 from Itajai to Newport, day 09 on board Dongfeng. 30 April,. Carolijn adjusting the outrigger. - photo © Jeremie Lecaudey / Volvo Ocean Race

This win represents the first time that a Chinese-flagged team has won the VOR, and it's also the first time that two competing female sailors-Carolijn Brouwer and Marie Riou-were part of a winning team.

Congratulations to Dongfeng Race Team for their proud win in this historic offshore contest, and stay tuned for more news on the final in-port race of this VOR cycle, which is set to unfurl on Saturday, June 30 in The Hague.

Leg 7 from Auckland to Itajai, day 18 on board Dongfeng. Jeremie Beyou driving while Marie Riou is managing the main. 02 April,. - photo © Martin Keruzore / Volvo Ocean Race
Leg 7 from Auckland to Itajai, day 18 on board Dongfeng. Jeremie Beyou driving while Marie Riou is managing the main. 02 April,. - photo © Martin Keruzore / Volvo Ocean Race

Finally, Sunday, July 1, marks the start of the Golden Globe Race 2018, which seeks to emulate the same levels of commitment, adventure and pure seamanship as the 1968/1969 Golden Globe Race, which was the first non-stop solo circumnavigation sailboat race. Entrants in the modern version of this contest must sail aboard vintage full-keel boats using era-specific equipment and electronics (read: sextants), making this a race that's far more about seamanship, gumption and grit than pure speed.

Sound familiar? While I'm running out of hats to eat, I can predict with absolute certainty that a monohull will win the GGR2018 (hint: check the entry list), but determining which of these brave sailors will take home the prize requires divination skills that far exceed my pay grade.

Zhik-sponsored Susie Goodall ahead of the Golden Globe Race 2018 - photo © Zhik
Zhik-sponsored Susie Goodall ahead of the Golden Globe Race 2018 - photo © Zhik

Still, if there's one thing that I learned from this year's R2AK, speed is less important than a great, deeply engaging contest filled with lively, colorful characters, plenty of horizon, and the chance to make the naysayers eat their hats, no hot sauce or salt allowed.

David Schmidt, Sail-World.com North American Editor

 
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