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Turn the Tide on Plastic turns the tables on Volvo Ocean Race fleet


© James Blake/Volvo Ocean Race

Turn the Tide on Plastic became the new leaders of Leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race on Wednesday as the sprint from Hong Kong to Auckland moved inside 1,500 miles.

Dee Caffari’s talented young sailors ghosted past Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag as they capitalised on the tiniest puffs of breeze in an otherwise windless Doldrums.

The temporary acceleration from less than a knot to more than four was welcomed by Turn the Tide on Plastic after two days of painstakingly slow progress in the Southern Hemisphere.

The 1300 UTC position update showed a 17-mile lead for Caffari’s crew, no strangers to the top spot in the Doldrums having previously led the fleet through the Intertropical Convergence Zone on Leg 4 from Melbourne to Hong Kong.

But, with around six days still to sail before reaching the Auckland finish line, navigator Nico Lunven was keen to urge caution.

“On the ranking we’re first but it’s calculated on the distance to Auckland,” Lunven explained, “and we won’t be going there a straight line.”

The dilemma facing the teams over the past 48 hours has been where to position themselves as they approach the island chain of Vanuatu.

© James Blake/Volvo Ocean Race

If and when the new wind arrives it should do so from the east, and Turn the Tide on Plastic’s overnight gain is testament to the advantages on offer from getting it first.

However, as Lunven alluded, the forecast suggests a routing to the west of New Caledonia, some 300 miles to the south, will be quickest.

© Rich Edwards/Volvo Ocean Race

It could yet be that Scallywag, some 45 miles to the west, and team Akzonobel, another 15 miles past them, leapfrog their rivals into the top spot once more.

After several days in front, conceding any miles to Turn the Tide on Plastic has been a bitter pill to swallow for Dave Witt’s Scallywag crew.

“For us it’s about limiting the damage,” said Scallywag’s Marcus Ashley Jones. “Hopefully we’ll get a little bit of luck with a puff. We’re still in touch, still in the game, but it’s always disappointing to go from being the peacock to the feather duster.”

Almost 100 miles behind the pacesetters, Dongfeng Race Team and MAPFRE continued their match race.

© Martin Keruzore/Volvo Ocean Race

At times the two teams, first and second on the overall leaderboard, were practically side by side after nearly 4,000 miles of racing.

Although speeds were up around seven knots today, the teams face another 24 hours before they reach New Caledonia and start accelerating towards Auckland, their progress buoyed by stronger winds.

© Ainhoa Sanchez/Volvo Ocean Race

Meanwhile, construction of the Race Village at the Viaduct Basin in Auckland is continuing in anticipation of opening day on Saturday. 

Leg 6
Hong Kong to Auckland 21 February 2018
Positions at: 13:00 UTC DTL nm GAIN_LOSS STATUS SPEED kt COURSE TWS kt TWD DTF nm 1 TTOP 0.00 0.00 RAC 7.3 221º 5.2 137º 1444.49 2 SHKS 17.05 1.85 RAC 7.9 215º 7.2 150º 1461.54 3 TBRU 18.90 3.18 RAC 6.0 203º 4.0 125º 1463.39 4 AKZO 20.15 3.66 RAC 6.2 227º 5.8 166º 1464.64 5 MAPF 80.93 12.10 RAC 8.0 196º 6.5 110º 1525.42 6 DFRT 87.00 5.87 RAC 7.3 184º 3.5 96º 1531.49 7 VS11 DNS

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A new leader in the doldrums


"It's just a shambles here. You are where you are and you get what you get."

So says David Witt, the skipper of SHK/Scallywag, after surrendering the lead to a charging Turn the Tide on Plastic overnight on Tuesday (UTC).

© James Blake/Volvo Ocean Race

Dee Caffari's Turn the Tide on Plastic and Team Brunel, nearly 70 miles further east, found better breeze and made significant gains.

On the 0700 UTC report on Wednesday morning, Caffari and crew were out to a 20 mile lead.

"We wake to more good news today," Caffari wrote. "Our nighttime light wind sailing seems to be coming on a treat and we are continuing to make gains on the whole fleet.

"That not only brings a smile to sleepy crew members being woken to come on deck for their watch but also a more gritted determination from everyone to try and maintain this hard work all the way to Auckland, just 1500 miles away."

Spirits on board are so high that on board reporter James Blake flew the drone down the main companionway hatch, through the boat, and out a forward hatch. Check out the cool footage here.

Conditions haven't really changed since yesterday. Winds remain very light, variable and it's hot, making for uncomfortable living conditions. The occasional torrential downpour adds variety.

© Ugo Fonolla/Volvo Ocean Race

At the back, nearly 100 miles from the leaders, Dongfeng Race Team and MAPFRE continue to race just metres from each other. 

""One would think we were attached by a bungee," posted Carolijn Brouwer, from Dongfeng Race Team, captioning a photo that showed MAPFRE nearly within high-five distance.

There's more of this ahead. But each hard-fought mile sailed brings the fleet closer to stronger winds. That's the only solace they can take.

© Yann Riou/Volvo Ocean Race

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No pain, no gain as Doldrums take their toll


The Volvo Ocean Race fleet is facing another 48 hours of excruciating sailing as the teams plugged deeper into a massive expanse of windless ocean on Tuesday.

Lying ahead of them is a 400-mile gulf that stretches as far south as New Caledonia, severely hampering progress towards New Zealand as Leg 6 enters its 14th day.

And with the finish line in Auckland still more than 1,500 miles away, a glance at the forecast provides little relief with no sign of breeze materialising in the short term.

© Martin Keruzore/Volvo Ocean Race

As well as battling the elements, the fights on the water have become personal, with the six-strong fleet splitting into pairs, essentially forming three mid-ocean match races.

Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag and team AkzoNobel continue to lead the way south, with Turn the Tide on Plastic and Team Brunel neck and neck around 50 miles to the north-east, but only 20 miles behind on distance to finish. This leverage to the east could prove decisive over the coming days.

Fifty miles further south, and 75-miles behind the leaders, MAPFRE and Dongfeng Race Team continue their hunt for a way back into the leg, split by less than a mile.

While full-on storm conditions are physically exhausting, a lack of breeze pushes the sailors to the limit of mental tiredness as they search desperately for a route that might provide the tiniest speed advantage over their rivals.

“It’s tricky… snakes and ladders,” said David Witt, skipper of Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag, after they overhauled AkzoNobel to take the top spot. “There’s two more days of this, so there’s not much sleep coming up.”

The cause of the giant wind hole is a huge storm – Gita – currently battering the south island of New Zealand that has killed the trade winds, allowing the Doldrums to swell to epic proportions.

All the teams can do is take their best guess at the quickest route south, make the most of whatever local weather comes their way, and keep their fingers crossed that the forecasts are wrong.

The uncertainty and frustration is shared throughout the fleet.

© James Blake/Volvo Ocean Race

“It feels like we are in three match races, we’re just are not sure who is playing the finals, who is playing the semi-finals and who is playing for the wooden spoon,” a bemused Turn the Tide on Plastic skipper Dee Caffari said.

Bouwe Bekking, skipper of nearby Team Brunel, added: “Sometimes we think we have the greatest sport there is, but on days like these I think the majority of the crew think that it can be a stupid sport as well.”

The one bonus is that the teams are not alone in their struggle. The windless zone is so huge that it has ensnared all six teams, and what affects one affects them all.

“Since the start we’ve been together with Dongfeng, and today’s just another day that we’re within a mile of each other,” MAPFRE skipper Xabi Fernández said.

“We had a few clouds this morning and lost about four miles but now we’re back with them. It’s very hard to overtake them and it’s hard for them to overtake us. At least we’re very well entertained by each other.”

The key to escape will be picking up the new breeze first. But which pair will find salvation first remains to be seen.

© Rich Edwards/Volvo Ocean Race

Leg 6
Hong Kong to Auckland 20 February 2018
Positions at: 13:00 UTC DTL nm GAIN_LOSS STATUS SPEED kt COURSE TWS kt TWD DTF nm 1 SHKS 0.00 0.00 RAC 4.2 265º 3.5 189º 1575.57 2 AKZO 1.29 4.42 RAC 4.9 213º 3.8 161º 1576.86 3 TTOP 19.48 4.52 RAC 11.0 180º 9.0 72º 1595.05 4 TBRU 20.68 3.80 RAC 8.2 166º 5.5 66º 1596.25 5 DFRT 73.09 24.08 RAC 9.4 158º 6.0 257º 1648.65 6 MAPF 73.48 23.68 RAC 9.4 171º 8.8 263º 1649.05 7 VS11 DNS

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Leading virtual skippers dodging Pacific islands in race south


The frontrunners in Leg 6 of the official Volvo Ocean Race game are threading themselves through myriad islands in the South Pacific as the sprint to Auckland heats up.

© Virtual Regatta

Top-ranked player goranagren of Sweden was one of a number of players choosing to sail right through the middle of the Solomon Islands archipelago as the 6,000-mile stage from Hong Kong enters its 13th day.

Goranagren now leads a band of virtual skippers to the west of Vanuata, an archipelago of more than 80 islands that lies 350 miles north-east of New Calendonia. Although a more direct route to Auckland from the last waypoint at the Solomon Islands, the course picked by goranagren and his compatriots such as nico555 and arthurdayne is an unorthodox one.

Winds are currently much lighter in the Coral Sea, the body of water between Australia and the Solomans, than they are more to the east where the rhumb line lies. The frontrunners’ speed was today down to around four knots with just under 1,400 miles still to go to the finish line.

Even more unusual though is the route still pursued by Your Mom SA, who instead of heading south east from Hong Kong opted to sail north east into the middle of the Pacific before turning right. Now firmly into the trade winds and about to cross the Equator, Your Mom SA has knocked off more than 15,000 places in four days and was today more than twice as quick as the frontrunners with a much more favourable forecast.

Which strategy will pay off? With potentially another five or six days left at sea in Leg 6, only time will tell. It's not too late to enter the leg – just head to to enter.

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Leveraging up – will the east pay?


The challenge continues on Leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race, with extended doldrums-like conditions making for painfully slow progress. 

© James Blake/Volvo Ocean Race

SHK/Scallywag and AkzoNobel have traded off the lead a few times over the past 12 hours and despite polling in at only 4 or 5 knots on the 0700 (UTC) position report, have maintaned their advantage over the fleet. 

That's because the rest of the boats are only making 3-4 knots, which gives an idea as to how difficult it is out there.

"At our current speed our ETA is in 55 days, ha ha we will definitely have run out of food by then," jokes Scallywag navigator Libby Greenhalgh. "This is always a fun game that really boosts morale onboard when you tell the guys on deck it will be 55 days at this speed or 6 more days until we see more than 8-knots of wind except in some freak clouds!"

Scallywag and AkzoNobel are one of three match races in the fleet at the moment. 25 miles behind, and making a move to the east, Turn the Tide on Plastic and Brunel are joined at the hip.

"So we had a good night sailing and have woken up to enjoy breakfast with Brunel once again," writes Dee Caffari, skipper on Turn the Tide on Plastic.

"We are much closer this time and are in the same wind with no clouds and squalls to separate us again so we are now locked in a close battle, hopefully all the way to the end!

"In fact looking at the position report this morning sees the fleet in three groups of two battling it out. We just are not sure who is playing the finals, who is playing the semi finals and who is playing for the wooden spoon!"

Her counterpart on Brunel agrees: "The next 48 hours will be decisive as to who is going to be the front runner going into NZL," noted Bouwe Bekking.

"The team that sails out first into the new pressure will start making a healthy jump. But of course everything can happen, as the wind has done many times not even close to what the forecast said it would do."
Meanwhile, the third pairing features the top two boats on the overall leaderboard - MAPFRE and Dongfeng. 

These two have been more or less in sight of each other for the full leg. And that's still the case this morning, 100 miles behind the leader. Plenty of work to do for this pair then, but the light and variable conditions provide hope and possibility.

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