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Knut Frostad used to say that the Volvo Ocean Race was like an addiction and if that’s the case then we should pity Bouwe Bekking as a pretty hopeless case. Here he is a few minutes after The Hague has been announced as the final stop for the 2017-18 race and the man is grinning from ear to ear like a kid with a free run in the candy store.
He may have lapped the globe seven times with the race, a record-equaling feat, by the way, but Bekking is already counting the days before he has the chance of another dip into his favorite sweetie jar from October next year.
“It’s fantastic news,” he says, licking his lips at the prospect of victory in The Hague in June 2018. “But, hey, you can’t start until you have the money together. It’s one step at a time.” It’s a rare note of caution from a man who delights in voicing exactly what is on his mind without letting little matters like diplomacy or political correctness get in his way.
Volvo Ocean Race sailors, and especially skippers, are usually a fairly tight-lipped bunch, sticking rigidly to the company line in dealings with the media. Bekking breaks that mould into 1,000 pieces by saying whatever the hell he likes, sending the sailing press into raptures and leaving PR guys ducking for cover.
Race communications crew still remember with a blush his comments at the outset of the last race in October 2014 when he told a packed Alicante press conference that he didn’t care too much for the in-port race series.
The sailing community, however, almost universally likes him. You just can’t help yourself, Bouwe has star quality and charm in equal measure when he’s minded to turn it on which is most of the time in my experience. He’s also great with sponsors and VIP guests who recognize the real deal, an authentic seaman, when they see it.
Hell, if I had the money, I’d spend it on Bouwe. He’ll turn 53 this summer, but the Dutch skipper of Team Brunel from the 2014-15 looks as fit and boyishly enthusiastic as ever. He’s tanned too, after a very successful winter sailing with 60 per cent of his Brunel crew in the Caribbean.
He turns serious, briefly, when he talks about an eighth tilt at the one serious piece of sailing silverware, which has eluded him in a 30-year plus stellar career. Three times he has finished runner-up in the Volvo Ocean Race, including last time with a hand-picked crew with Team Brunel.
And even for a guy ready to see the funny side of anything, that’s getting beyond a bloody joke. “I have two ambitions: to skipper it again and, of course, to win it,” he says. “In 2014-15 we had a very good result, a result I’m proud of, but I believe we can make further huge steps based on the experience we now have with the one-design boat.
“I can tell you now I don’t even think about the record (of eight appearances). I think I can say I’m pretty successful in all the big races, but I just haven’t won this bloody race.
“When I don’t learn any more I won’t sail any more because other people will over-run you. But I know I have the capabilities to win this race because I have the capability to learn and get better. Plus I have all the experience that gives you something extra too.”
Bekking, as ever, is leading from the front with his plans for 2017-18 and another Dutch campaign. He faces a crowded market place with no less than three Dutch operations including his own pitching for sponsorship from The Netherlands although Bekking is also happy to go for overseas backers.
He says the Dutch campaigns are all in regular touch with each other and work together so there’s no double approach to the same individual sponsors. “It’s hard work but I believe sailors can bring an extra story of having done the event to sponsors, that’s why so many skippers are involved. What’s been interesting is seeing how many companies have approached us this time. I think they can now see the impact of the race, especially here in the Netherlands.“
It’ll be a busy spring and summer, no doubt, but Bekking as ever will be beavering away until he’s secured that prized berth once more for the greatest race on the planet.
I for one won’t be betting against him pulling it off one last time. Hold on. What am I talking about ‘one last time’? This guy will be the first pensioner to sail the Volvo Ocean Race. As I say, he’s an addict of this race, a pretty hopeless case.
Source Jon Bramley, Volvo Ocean Race Media.
Team Brunel, which finished second overall in the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race, is the focus of a 76 minute feature film that profiles their campaign.
Titled ‘When The Boys Became Men’, the film will initially be released in Dutch theaters beginning November 27, 2015.
The plan for now is to run in theatres in Europe until mid February and then it will be shown on FOX in Europe with an online showing to follow.
The film will also be shown at the Beach Theatre during the 2016 St. Maarten Heineken Regatta in March.
The 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race began in Alicante, Spain on Oct. 11, covering 38,739 nm on the way to the final In-Port Race on June 27 in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Racing the new one design Volvo Ocean 65, seven teams scored points in 9 offshore legs to determine the overall Volvo Ocean Race winner. Additionally, the teams competed in 10 In-Port races at each stopover for a separate competition, the Volvo Ocean Race In-Port Series.
Click here for recap of offshore legs.
For the first time the Volvo Ocean Race changed into a one-design race. This edition was not about the boats, it was about the crew that sailed around the world, providingt an exciting drag race full of ups and downs. This video by Team Brunel follows their ride to second overall. Video published July 10, 2015.
The 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race began in Alicante, Spain on Oct. 11, covering 38,739 nm on the way to the final In-Port Race on June 27 in Gothenburg, Sweden. Racing the new one design Volvo Ocean 65, seven teams scored points in 9 offshore legs to determine the overall Volvo Ocean Race winner. Additionally, the teams competed in 10 In-Port races at each stopover for a separate competition, the Volvo Ocean Race In-Port Series.
Click here for recap of offshore legs.
Despite having won the Volvo Ocean Race with a leg to spare, Ian Walker and all his crew slipped into Gothenburg to take fifth place on the final leg with mile-wide grins on their faces.
Three boats in the Volvo Ocean Race received penalties for infringements made on leg seven, from the jury sitting in Lisbon toay.
At 52 years, Team Brunel navigator Andrew Cape (AUS) is now on his seventh lap around the world. With one doublehanded Barcelona World Race and six Volvo Ocean Races on his CV, Andrew comments on his role in the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15…
While the Volvo Ocean Race continues to evolve, the role of navigator has remained relatively consistent. What has changed the most is the communications and the accuracy of the weather data. The information used to be pretty sparse, but now the weather models are a lot better, and the access to them with the satellite comms is much improved. It’s reassuring to have the information, and the fast connection speeds has made it much simpler for me.
What we don’t have access to is the internet as the race blocks it. This is good as a navigator would likely live full time at the nav station, pouring through all the information and observations that are available. This restriction is a positive step, and it’s possible because the Volvo Ocean Race controls all the communication systems, whereas in other ocean races you’d have access to it.
This restriction might be a hindrance to others, but I don’t believe much of the information anyway. With my experience, I am better off going up on deck and taking a look around. Making assessments on the weather you see is far superior then the alternative. Relying on observations from a lighthouse 50 miles away, that then gets delivered 30 minutes later, is simply not as good. Aside from Asian legs, I have the advantage of having raced on the course seven times.
But so much of what we are doing onboard, the decisions we make, are neutralized with AIS. This a commercial game, and there is additional fear of a bad result, so AIS had led to a pack mentality. Some of the less experienced teams are basing their decisions more on fleet positioning than weather positioning. I typically sail my own race, follow my own plan.
This is after all a yacht race, and you do have to make your own decisions. You do this race enough times with some success, and there is a confidence that comes with that. Maybe some arrogance too. But truth is there are few times that a choice is so clear that it is a sure thing, so it can lead to conservative sailing, at least early on, letting for more decisive strategy later on as the race matures.
The Volvo Ocean Race puts a high premium on past experience and the confidence to apply that experience. It is not so much about recognizing situations that you’d seen before, because the weather might look different each time you pass through a certain part of the world. It is more about relying on yourself and assessing what you see, rather than just following the weather models or what the other boats are doing. You need the confidence to determine what the future will bring, and then to make decisions on what you want to do.
After competing in seven editions of the Volvo Ocean Race, Brunel skipper Bouwe Bekking (NED) has earned the right to have an opinion. Here he shares it with Scuttlebutt editor Craig Leweck…
The Volvo Ocean Race has gone from really good racing to really bad racing. The one design format is great but all the rules and restrictions now have removed much of the adventure. The course constraints and event enforcements, much of it directed by commercial demands, has changed what used to be a pure test. It is now so complex. From a sailing point of view, it would be nice to just let everything go and have them send us around the world. While the race is now safer, it has lost some of its soul.
From a strategic standpoint, the AIS sucks. You can’t make impactful decisions without someone following you. You can’t drift out of AIS range without someone sliding along with you. It is rare when you can make a navigational decision without someone immediately reacting to it. It might be great for the public watching the race, as it has kept us close, but it is a frustrating environment to be competing within.
As for the boat, we are all equal, but when we first stepped on it we all said the same thing. It’s bloody slow. You can moan and complain about it, but it is what it is. They may have presented the Volvo Ocean 65 as having somewhat similar performance as the 70 footer we used in the three previous races, but the truth is they are quite a bit slower on all points of sail. There’s less sail area, less stability, less length…all the elements that typically contribute to performance.
There have been discussions to improve the boat for the next race, but that’s not what I would do. Maybe you could increase displacement, because the boat needs it, but any change is going to cost money, and it remains hard to find the money. If we all make the same changes, and we all come together again to sail against each other, what have we accomplished other than spent money?
So like I said, it is what it is. If we had stayed with the Volvo Ocean 70, this edition probably would have had only two teams: Abu Dhabi and SCA. The VO65 allowed the rest of to get included, albeit at a much later stage than those two teams. So the decision for one design was extremely good, and the boat has given us all a level platform for the competition.
Background: The 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race began in Alicante, Spain on Oct. 11 with the final finish on June 27 in Gothenburg, Sweden. Racing the new one design Volvo Ocean 65, seven teams will be scoring points in 9 offshore legs to determine the overall Volvo Ocean Race winner. Additionally, the teams will compete in 10 In-Port races at each stopover for a separate competition – the Volvo Ocean Race In-Port Series.
As many of the one-design keelboats are dry sailed and lack bottom paint, the ritual of the early morning swim to clean the hull during multi-day regattas is a common sight. Rarely a desirable chore, but a necessary evil to maintain a fast, clean hull surface.
However, as speed polishes now available can keep hulls clean for days, or even weeks at a time, the dreaded early morning swim is getting replaced with 20-30 minutes to apply a speed polish to the hull prior to regattas.
But what if your one-design of choice is a V0 65? With race legs taking upwards of three weeks or more, teams require something that tests very fast over long periods in the water and is easy to apply and maintain during brief stopovers.
Mark Gardner of the Harken Service Team reports that every Volvo Ocean Race team is using McLube Antifoul Alternative Speed Polish under the waterline, with none of the teams using any kind of permanent antifoul bottom paint or other permanent coating, as was once typical in this race.
The boats are usually able to haul out of the water for cleaning and re-polishing at each stopover, though the Newport stopover does not allow the boats to come out of the water. After 17 days racing from Brazil, 12 days in Newport, and then the next leg to Portugal, the hull surface will be immersed upwards of 40 days.
After six of nine race legs, here’s how the top three teams are handling their bottom prep when hauled:
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing: Two coats of McLube Antifoul Alternative Speed Polish applied to the hull each time the boat is allowed to haul out at a stopover, and four coats on any area that has been wet-sanded.
Dongfeng Race Team: Two coats of the McLube Antifoul Alternative Speed Polish to the hull, followed by a light spray coating of McLube Sailkote over the entire underbody of the hull surface. This team also prefers two coats of McLube Hullkote Speed Polish on the daggerboards and rudders to help keep them fast and debris-free.
Team Brunel: McLube Antifoul Alternative Speed Polish applied under waterline, and Nanocoat on the topsides (Note: Nanocoat is a Team Brunel sponsor).
Background: The 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race began in Alicante, Spain on Oct. 11 with the final finish on June 27 in Gothenburg, Sweden. Racing the new one design Volvo Ocean 65, seven teams will be scoring points in 9 offshore legs to determine the overall Volvo Ocean Race winner. Additionally, the teams will compete in 10 In-Port races at each stopover for a separate competition – the Volvo Ocean Race In-Port Series. The seventh leg, from Newport, USA to Lisbon, Portugal (2,800 nm), begins May 17 with an ETA between May 22 and 29.
[Source: Team Brunel] On Monday afternoon, Team Brunel rounded the infamous Cape Horn, with MAPFRE in their wake. A few hours later, Bouwe Bekking and his crew were forced to slow down, when their J1 headsail became damaged. Now that Team Brunel could no longer enjoy the advantage of the largest jib, the Spanish boat skippered by Iker Martínez was able to overtake the Dutch team.
The Team Brunel sailors are currently working hard to try to repair the damaged headsail. “I’m not yet sure whether the sail is repairable,”says Team Brunel director and three-time Whitbread Round the World Cup Race sailor Gideon Messink. “After the J1 jib got damaged the team was forced to sail upwind with the smaller J2 jib, which is why we’re slightly slower than the rest of the fleet.”
Team Brunel had already lost a number of miles in the night before rounding Cape Horn, when the navigation screens suddenly failed. “Due to moisture problems, all navigational instruments in the mast and cabin were wiped out,” continues Gideon Messink. “Jens Dolmer got all the screens working again after drying off the computer which controls the instruments.”
Team Brunel is now in fourth place in the fifth leg of the Volvo Ocean Race. The Dutch team still has more than 1,600 miles to go, to the Brazilian port of Itajaí, where the leading boats will pass the finish line on 5 April.
by Stefan Coppers, Team Brunel – I thoroughly understand that, as a Brunel fan, you’re disappointed but pelting skipper Bouwe Bekking’s house with rotten tomatoes is a bit premature. True, we do lie more than 100 miles behind the rest of the fleet but there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for that. So calm down a bit and I’ll quietly explain why Team Brunel, and the girls, are sailing north.
After all the boats had sailed from China to the Philippines in three days, it turned out that little wind was forecasted beyond the Philippines. We would also have to face the powerful Kuroshio current, which runs at more than 4 knots. For that reason, Bekking and navigator Andrew Cape decided to take a different route. Why are we heading north?” was my first, quiet reaction to our skipper. “Are you drunk?” was my next question, slightly less quietly.
Because our cheery skipper never touches a drop, and there’s only water on board anyway, this has to be a deliberate ploy. It turns out that the aim is first to sail 300 miles north towards Taiwan and then to take a long curve around the windless area.
On your Volvo Ocean Race app at home, it looks as if we’re off on some sort of jaunt. After all, the distance to Auckland and our fellow competitors is simply getting bigger.“It’s still a pretty risky business,” I hear you say. “If the other boats do have wind, they’ll leave you right behind.”
However, all the team Brunel sailors stand right behind the decision of the skipper and navigator. “This makes it interesting,” says Rokas Milevičius. “He who dares wins.” Bouwe Bekking is sure that the investment of 300 miles will pay off before we cross the Equator.
And if it doesn’t work out and we arrive in New Zealand three days too late, do feel free to resume pelting the Dutch skipper’s house. And save a tomato for me.
Background: The 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race began in Alicante, Spain on Oct. 11 with the final finish on June 27 in Gothenburg, Sweden. Racing the new one design Volvo Ocean 65, seven teams will be scoring points in 9 offshore legs to determine the overall Volvo Ocean Race winner. Additionally, the teams will compete in 10 In-Port races at each stopover for a separate competition – the Volvo Ocean Race In-Port Series. The fourth leg, from Sanya, China to Auckland, New Zealand (5,264 nm), began Feb. 8 with an ETA of Mar. 1-5.
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