Friday, 28 October 2011

Time to fire the starting gun

The light wind and cloud-covered sky gives the Volvo Ocean Race Village in Alicante the feeling of a sleepy Spanish town waking up to a slow Sunday morning. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Look past the limp flags and gently rocking boats and you will see an army of worker ants descending on the village to pick, pull and dissect every particle of the race.

As I write, there is exactly 24 hours before the first in-port race. At 12:00 UTC (14:00 local time) tomorrow, the teams will get their first chance to win points.

Intense course
This may be the world’s premier round-the-world yacht race, but 20 per cent of the overall points are won by racing around a very small and intense course for just 50 to 60 minutes.

On the Ocean legs they may not change sails for days, but during an in-port-race they will franticly switch them around every 10 minutes or so.

These majestic Volvo 70 yachts are not set up for this frenetic short-course racing; it’s like asking a marathon runner to take part in a sprint.

Pecking order
But it gives the teams a real chance to upset the pecking order. Team Sanya skipper Mike Sanderson knows that his boat (formerly known as Telefónica Blue) took a podium place in every in-port during the last Volvo in 2008-2009.

As Ken Read, skipper of PUMA’s Mar Mostro, says: “Every point counts and if you took the six teams right now and had a tiddlywinks contest it would be a blood match. Every point is huge.”

So let’s wake up this sleepy town with the starting gun - and get this race under way.

Mark Covell

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