The weather week ahead – Leg 1 preview


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After months of the requisite hot air dock talk in the torrid lead up to the Volvo Ocean Race, race start day will dawn clear and cool in Alicante.

As the spectator fleet heads out to surround the in shore race course, in preparation for the start at 1400 CEST (1200 UTC), the wind in the bay will be from the north east at 12 knots, rising to 15 if we’re lucky with the seabreeze.

The short legs and the triangular race course in the bay will favour a simple sail set up and we’ll probably see all of the Volvo Ocean 65s sporting their MHO (Mast Head Zero) Code Zero for all the legs. After last week’s MAPFRE In-Port Race all the teams are experienced in using this big sail on short legs, and they’ll be able to keep the same sail for the reach south passed Tabarca Island as they head south towards the Alboran sea.

© Great Circle

After 12 hours of racing, the fleet will be sailing fully downwind and should be gybing in towards Cabo de Gata, some 150 nautical miles southwest of Alicante, to benefit from an acceleration and bend in the wind at the headland. Depending on how the local effect shapes the wind, there could be as little as 10 knots although after the light winds encountered in Leg Zero the teams are well practised in these conditions.

© Great Circle

24 hours into the race and teams will be lining up for the Gibraltar Strait, the Rock of Gibraltar looming on the western horizon. As teams file into the narrow straight, wind strength will double from 14 to over 30, leading to frantic sail changes as teams negotiate accelerating wind, choppy waters and one of the world’s busiest shipping channels all at the same time.

© Great Circle

On Tuesday, 48 hours after the start, the sleigh ride comes to an end at the end of the acceleration zone and the fleet will be required to negotiate a ridge of high pressure, and its associated light winds, continuing onwards. Where to from there? Race director Phil Lawrence has reserved the right to lengthen the route with additional waypoints in order to secure an on-time arrival into Lisbon for the weekend.

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