Flabellina wins the Volvo Ocean Race!

June 29th, 2009 by Fred

Certainly it is not the real Volvo Ocean Race! A little bit too expensive… It is not even the public virtual Volvo Ocean Race organized by Many Players and won by Powerof7. Probably it would have been a little bit more difficult… In fact there was another virtual race in parallel which was dedicated to Volvo employees. Flabellina was engaged.

Here is the story of the decisive leg 9 from Marstrand to Stockholm.

The race started 8 months ago. B6324S and Flabellina are tied for first place. Eight months but at the beginning of the leg 9, it just looks as nothing happened before. The Öresund will decide in a few hours the winner of this long adventure.

17:00 We are heading south at more than 16 knots. B6324S is half a mille on left, a little behind. We approach the Öresund.

18:00 We bear away and hoist the spi. B6324S is still on the left and much closer to the land! Since I went aground on leg 8, I am very nervous when Flabellina is close to the land…

18:30 The tactic of B6324S at Öresund entrance was much better. Flabellina crosses B6324S’ path half a mille behind! I have to wait for 10 minutes to hoist code 0 and head up too.

21:00 We are out of the Öresund. Flabellina is on the same path as B6324S, at best wind angle… less than 1 mille behind. One mille will make all the difference at the end. I lost the game in Öresund. His tactic was clearly the best… What to do now? Is it worth to spend more time? I remember B6324S’ words when he told me about a very bad start in leg 8 which he finally managed to win. I stay! I will do my best until the end!

23:00 I am third. B6324S points first. I prepare my strategy for the night. Very simple: one jibe and wake up at 6:00.

6:10 How is it possible? B6324S is 3 milles behind! What could happen? Did he go aground? The strategy was so simple for the night… How could it be? I will probably never know why. But Flabellina will win the race!

If only the first 9 legs count for the overall ranking, there was a 10th one just as in the real race. Flabellina managed to win this leg. Here is the interview given by the skipper as he stepped on the dock in St Petersburg.

Congratulations for winning leg 10. You are also the skipper with the least points in total in the overall score and invited to the final challenge together with the rest of the top 20, how does it feel?

Wonderful! And I would add that at last I did it… Winning this last leg has a very special taste. In fact I was the leader at overall ranking since the end of leg 5 but never managed to win a leg. It was a little bit disappointing. But the competition was rude and skippers as B6324S do not allow you to make too much mistakes.

Which were your game tactics during this leg?

Looking at weather forecast, I saw that we would have to go upwind all the time. I was happy since this kind of situation was generally favourable to me in the past legs.

To go across the Baltic Sea was straightforward. The wind was forecasted to turn right 6 hours after the start so almost everybody chose the port tack and nobody could take profit of the situation when the wind finally turned left!

During the night, I managed to stay as long as possible in the strongest winds. Since they were quite weak and very little changes in direction were planned when going east, it was clearly the best thing to do. By sailing as much as possible at the best wind angle, I managed to take the lead of the fleet.

The situation was trickier for me on Friday morning. Clearly the best tactic was to stay in the south of the Gulf of Finland as long as possible as wind was weaker in the North. It was even necessary to go between Naissaar Island and the continent. But by doing that I would have needed to change tack every 10 minutes or so during a while. I was not available enough so I decided to go North of Naissaar. B6324S, Gerland and other went South. Although I did not loose too much time, this permitted to B6324S to come back and take the lead.

Well I had still a card to play. Very short term conditions privileged the left while longer term conditions privileged the right. I decided to go to the right and stayed in the south keeping a good distance with the coast. B6324S went a little bit too far in the North and so, although he temporarily kept the lead, the big wind direction change forecasted at 8 PM made me the virtual winner.

But finally the wind direction change was not as big as forecasted and suspense was kept until a few minutes before we crossed the finish line!

Why did you choose the name “Flabellina” for your virtual Volvo Open 70?

When I do not virtually sail, I do spend a lot of time below the water surface. I am passionate by a specific kind of marine life we call Nudibranchs or sea slugs. These very small (sometimes a few millimetres) animals are incredibly gracious and colourful! Flabellina is a genus of these sea slugs. I found that giving a race boat the name of a sea slug would be very funny! Especially now that it appeared to be the quickest boat of the fleet!

Which was the greatest challenge for you during this leg?

As the two previous legs, it was short and intense. There was not much time for rest. Only one small mistake and the leg is lost! Also, boats were often near the land and since I went aground exactly at the same place as Dead last in leg 8, I was always very nervous when the distance to coast was less than 2 milles.

As this leg did not count for the overall ranking, it could appear to be only a victory lap for me. But it wasn’t as simple. Some of the best boats – B6324S, Gerland, Decoy and others – started the leg and make it as hard as the previous. Especially the skipper of B6324S made my life very hard in the past months and just as the suspense for overall ranking was kept until the end of the leg 9, the suspense for this leg was kept until the last minutes!

Have your colleagues been engaged in the Volvo-league at your workplace?

Yes. I discovered the game after the start of leg 1 thanks to the skipper of The Anvil. Maybe a dozen of participants are working with me within CVD Lyon. The skipper of Epervier will participate to the final challenge together with me, faithful to the motto of the department: “Even better”!

Mots clés : Sailing