(June 24, 2015) – The B&G Navigators’ Prize for the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15 Prize is presented to the Navigator who has made the most effective use of meteorological, oceanographic and geographical information to gain distance on the majority of the fleet, as voted for by the Navigators themselves. Leg 9 from Lorient to Gothenburg via The Hague proved to be one of the most tactically demanding legs of the race so far, Will Oxley and Team Alvimedica chose what proved to be the winning side of the Dover TSS; the French side. Click headline for full story.
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You may not need a weather man to know which way the wind blows, as Bob Dylan sang, but knowing which way the wind blows before it blows is a critical skill in offshore racing. Now with the one design nature of the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race, this skill is contributing to the order in the fleet. Will Oxley, navigator on Team Alvimedica, explains…
Among the areas where the experienced teams have an advantage is recognizing weather situations, and that’s something that comes with practice. The guys on the front boats that have been around multiple times have a major advantage.
There are lessons that you have to learn when you’re going, “We need to go this way, 70 degrees against the shift, because I think that cloud is going to rain and there’s a shift that’s going to come back and then it’s going to roll us otherwise.” You have to experience that a few times the hard way to believe me.
My primary role as navigator is to keep the boat safe. But then, my secondary role is to interpret the weather as best as possible to provide the information to get the boat as quickly as possible to where we’re trying to go. The two primary navigation programs that I’m using are Adrena and Expedition. I’m running them concurrently on different machines.
When there’s rain around, we’re using the radar to help us locate the cells and get an accurate bearing on them. We’re using Squid, which is provided to us by the race, and that has access to detailed satellite images. So when it’s one of those tricky situations, we’re downloading, at least hourly, satellite images to try and get a sense of the direction that the big picture is moving and what’s going on.
We also have access to METARs, which is predominantly used by pilots. When we’re coastal, we can get the airport weather reports, so we’re able to verify what’s going on, to help calibrate against the GRIB files. It’s a great pity about the QuikSCAT satellite, in which the United States was a wonderful contributor, but when the instrument went down on that satellite, that was a great loss to sailing.
Now we’re using a European version but it’s a lot patchier. We get a couple of passes a day, though hardly over of the top of us, but nonetheless provides data that when accurately lined up with the GRIB and the satellite pictures, our confidence grows.
We also have access to synoptic maps and in different parts of the world, they’re good and sometimes they’re not. But I’m a big fan of being able to start with the synoptic map, then look at the satellite picture, get an understanding of the driving forces, and then drill down from there.
A good day is when all the information is in sync and the information is consistent. The challenging decisions are when there is conflict amidst the information.
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 sixth leg, from Itajaí, Brazil to Newport, USA (5,010 nm), begins April 19 with an ETA of May 6.
The teams in the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race are assisting in an environmental project to provide vital data from the Southern Ocean.
The U.S.-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) collects ocean and weather data to provide mariners with accurate forecasts of seas, as well as coastal forecasts and regional climate predictions.
It takes a lot of effort to maintain these observations in all of the ocean basins to support these forecasts, and NOAA can’t do it alone.
Partnerships are critical to maintaining a network of free-floating buoys, known as drifters, and NOAA have asked the Volvo Ocean Race fleet to assist them on the forthcoming leg.
During the fifth leg of the race, the teams race from Auckland (NZL) and travel through the Southern Ocean before rounding Cape Horn and ending in Itajaí (BRA) after a 6,776-nautical mile journey.
All six of the Volvo Ocean Race teams are deploying a drifter during the fifth leg of the race, in the Southern Ocean – a region oceanographers don’t get to visit regularly, but one that is critically important to observe.
“The Southern Ocean is poorly sampled compared to other ocean basins because it is so remote from most shipping lanes where observations are collected,” said Dr. Rick Lumpkin, Director of NOAA’s Global Drifter Programme.
“However, it plays a critical climate role in the global conveyor belt circulation and links the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, so it is extremely important to observe currents and temperatures there.”
The operations centre of the Global Drifter Programme, housed at NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory in Miami, continuously seeks opportunities for deployments in remote.
Martin Kramp serves as the ship coordinator at JCOMMOPS, a support centre of the Joint Technical Commission for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology of World Meteorological Organization, and UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission.
JCOMMOPS monitors observing networks and helps exploit synergies in the Global Ocean Observing System, such as deployment opportunities across different programmes. Kramp helped coordinate this unique opportunity and partnership.
“Organised ocean sailing events, such as races and rallies, are a new component of growing importance in volunteer ocean observation,” explained Kramp.
“We have shown the feasibility and efficiency of such partnerships in the last months and we are very happy that the Volvo Ocean Race is collaborating with us as a part of the current race.”
Knut Frostad, CEO of the Volvo Ocean Race, said: “The oceans are our race tracks and we are delighted we can assist with the building of knowledge about them in this way.
“I look forward to following the data from the drifters that our fleet drops as they race through the Southern Ocean, passing some of the most remote locations on the planet.”
Anyone can access the drifter data at http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/phod/dac.
Each of the six racing teams are deploying their drifter at the same predetermined coordinates.
As soon as they are in the water, they will drift with ocean surface currents and transmit data on surface pressure and ocean currents through a global satellite network.
Team Alvimedica navigator Will Oxley describes the program as they deploy their drifter.
Video published on Mar 20, 2015.