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The Building Of A Record

Tuesday 20 November 2001Information Volvo Ocean Race

Volvo Ocean Race records have been tumbling over the last 48 hours, but what is required to sail a 24-hour record Record #sailingrecord ? On Sunday News Corp first beat Silk Cut’s record Record #sailingrecord from the previous race and shortly after, SEB moved the benchmark to 459 miles. Now just 9 more miles are needed to establish a new 24-hour world monohull speed Speed #speedsailing record.

The boat: V.O.60s are not purpose-built to set this kind of record Record #sailingrecord ; they are designed as fast and safe all-round racing yachts. The yachts have to perform well in the light weather of the doldrums as well as in the Southern Ocean; no team can afford to lose miles in any state of sailing. It’s the same with the sail development programme where the teams have to go for all-round sails as the total number of sails is limited. The great features of a V.O.60 design are that the boat is easily driven and has a very efficient underwater body, without restrictions that influence the hydrodynamic properties. The modern keel and rudder offer the control that is needed to sail at high speeds.

SEB emphasized refining the deck layout on their Farr Yacht Design Yacht Design #YachtDesign boat, making it handle as easily and efficiently as possible. Their winch and line system is different to all the other yachts and oriented towards the system used on grand prix, round-the-cans racing yachts. The most apparent feature is the twin companionway, allowing for easier traffic flow on deck and down below.

News Corp focussed more on reliability than on refinement with a well-proven deck layout.

The people: Both yachts are sailed by top sailors. Still, it is worth taking a closer look at the brain trust and leaders of both yachts. The previous record Record #sailingrecord holder, Jez Fanstone, who sailed on Lawrie Smith’s Silk Cut in the last race, heads News Corp. Silk Cut established their record in similar conditions, maybe in slightly more wind, which is not necessarily an advantage as the yachts become more difficult to control in too much wind. He has a clear feeling about living at record pace and with News Corp, was beating his own benchmark. Ross Field, navigator and previous race winner, with the help of meteorologist Nick White positioned Bart Simpson’s yacht in the right spot for the record and made sure that the yacht held to a straight course in order not to lose any miles.

SEB’s skipper Gurra Krantz established himself as "King of the Southern Ocean" last time around with a historical win on Swedish Match in the second leg. This time around, with the help of Marcel van Triest, legendary Dutch navigator and strategist, he pushed man and green machine to 459 miles, the distance the average cruising Cruising #Cruising holiday sailor covers over a three week period. The only disadvantage during their record run was a change in wind direction that made them sail a curve, losing about five miles, as the record is measured in a straight line.

The weather: Without the right weather pattern, no record is possible. The ideal wind strength is between 35 and 40 knots in cold (heavier) air from the back corner. The wind has to last for the whole period, or even longer, as the yacht needs some time to get up to optimum speed Speed #speedsailing and settle into record-breaking mode. These conditions can be found best in front of low-pressure systems that travel with a speed Speed #speedsailing of 15 to 20 knots, following the yacht. If the weather system is too slow, the yacht sails into lower wind speed and slows down; if the weather travels too fast, the frontal system will overtake the yacht, leaving her in its wake with adverse wind conditions.

The Ocean: The best places for record attempts are large stretches of open water as found in the North Atlantic and the Southern Ocean. The weather systems are dynamic enough to create the wind speed that is needed and are not stopped by landmasses in their path. For the record attempt the yacht wants to sail either in rather flat water or in long ocean waves, both conditions that are found in these oceans. A following current is very helpful as well. The Gulf Stream in the North Atlantic helped the current world monohull record holder Amor Lux with a good push, while the V.O.60s can count on about a knot of surface drift in the Southern Ocean.

The risk: Establishing a record in a regular race has its merits and risks. When sailing in the right direction, it helps the overall position through gains on the other yachts. If the yacht is pushed too hard, the crew risks heavy damage to sails, hardware and people, especially during the night - factors that need not be considered when sailing solely to make a record attempt.

The outlook: With illbruck, djuice and ASSA ABLOY sailing close to record speed as well, it is not a question whether the yachts are capable of a new world record, it is more a question of whether the right weather system will pass the yachts on their course through the Southern Ocean. If not on their way to Australia, on the way to Cape Horn there is a good chance of demolishing the existing world record. SEB showed true potential this morning when she reported constant speeds of more than 20 knots.

- Volvo Ocean Race Position Report, Day 10, 10.00hrs GMT

- PS Yacht Latitude Longitude DTF CMG SMG TFHR DTL DTL-C ETA PO
- 1 TSEB 48 15.52S 081 49.24E 3587 105 20.6 452 0 -00002 02 DEC 01 11
- 2 ILBK 48 52.76S 081 56.40E 3591 093 18.0 438 4 +00004 02 DEC 01 15
- 3 AART 48 24.36S 081 33.28E 3599 085 16.7 411 12 +00009 02 DEC 01 10
- 4 NEWS 49 57.28S 081 55.88E 3608 089 16.3 372 21 +00013 02 DEC 01 11
- 5 DJCE 49 51.32S 081 39.28E 3617 088 17.1 360 30 +00009 02 DEC 01 6
- 6 AONE 49 31.96S 078 07.80E 3745 079 17.1 339 158 +00008 03 DEC 01 10
- 7 ATOO 51 15.68S 068 48.48E 4113 122 13.3 235 526 +00046 04 DEC 01 3

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