Sunday, February 12, 2006

Off again!

No, Captain JP isn't off to the slopes again (alas). It's the start of the third offshore leg of the Volvo Ocean race. Can it match leg 2 for thrills, breakages and world speed records?

Certainly the slog from Cape Town to Melbourne produced more than its fair share of drama. All of the Farr boats suffered some sort of damage and questions about the new Volvo design ever more pertinent.

But its noticable that the two ABN boats mostly survived intact, which many are putting down to the time on the water to shake down the problems (though it didn't help movistar so much). With Captain JP's engineer hat on, its always the case that new technology will produce problems - thats why you always have a test phase.

It was interesting to hear a Farr designer admit on the Volvo TV show that they didn't know much about hydraulics. But its through exercises such as this they (and the industry) can learn. For those that know about hydraulics don't know about the stresses on a boat powering into a head-sea in 40 knots of wind.

So is it "madness" to quote Yachting World? The success or failure of the new design will depend upon two things - the sponsors and the sailors. There's no doubt this Volvo has been making headlines if only for the wrong reasons. And there's no doubt that when these boats go, they go like rockets. Just watching the in-port race in Melbourne is enough to get the adrenaline going.

Could the Volvo go back to old technology such as static keels as used by the Open 60s? Would such designs have any chance of beating the 24 hour record set by ABN AMRO 2? Would that matter to those who fund this race?

Its interesting to see what has happened to Brunel - carted off to join the others only for the transatlantic leg. And why? For thats the leg with the best chance of beating that world record. For thats the sort of news that sponsors like to be associated with.

Eventually the bugs will be ironed out. Its gutting for the likes of Ericsson who had such a good start, but all engineering takes time to get right. Look at the Clipper fleet: new boats, all known technology, but they too have had keel problems and the race has had to be suspended and crew flown home.

You can't even say take the safe option and a Challenge boat 72 foot of steel like Dee Caffari battling her way across the south pacific about to meet the Volvo's going the other way. For those too had problems in the early days with their masts (remember that?) and Dee for all her heroics of weeks of tacking to windward is never going to get a 24 hours speed record.

The Volvo 70 certainly has its vocal supporters, led by Mike "Moose" Sanderson. Well, he has some reason for having warm feelings about Black Betty as ABN AMRO ONE is affectionatly called, as he has won yet another couple of points by coming first yet again in the Melbourne in-port race.

So its congratulations to Moose - again!

He must be getting used to people saying that. And not just for his habit of winning races. It appears that Emma Richards has a good excuse for not (yet) getting in touch with Captain JP about that sail in the solent. For she and Mike are now engaged.

All together now, ahh.....

But Mike will have to sail really fast to be in Wellington in time for Valentine's day.

Picture from Virtual Spectator

No comments: