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SOL Magnus Olsson Tribute Race

June 20, 2013

The sailonline tribute race in honour of Magnus Olsson started on 11 May 2013 at 1800z. The sailing world lost the very popular Olsson in April. He took part in six Whitbreads/Volvo Ocean Races and won with EF Language. However, the ever enthusiastic Olsson took perhaps his most memorable leg victory in the 2008/9 event between Quigdao to Rio. He was skipper of the slower of the two Ericsson boats but his bold move after the NZ gate to head northeast when old wisdom directed the rest of the fleet southeast. He took a huge lead and held on to win the leg.

The course took us from the China Sea, past the Korean peninsula into the vast Pacific Ocean. A gate required the fleet to approach New Zealand before diving into the wild Southern Ocean. An ice gate kept the fleet out of the iceberg strewn deep south on the way to Cape Horn. From the cape the course took a turn into the South Atlantic and north to Rio.

The key decisions that won the race were:

–          Heading east for several days after passing the Korea

–          Crossing the doldrums north of Fiji

–          Heading northeast soon after the NZ gate

–          Staying close to the coast rounding Cape Horn and passing west of the Falklands

–          Riding east in the strong winds half way between the Cape and Rio into mid ocean before continuing north

–          Making the best of the complex weather patterns in the last few days approaching Rio

I was an hour late for the start so was well down in the rankings early. The start was fast with a beam reach and 400nm days. The wind came forward onto the nose. There was a spread in the fleet with an intrepid few going through the Japanese Islands searching for good winds – which they did not find. Others decided to bear away early and race towards the Philippines. This allowed an early gain but later they paid the penalty compared to those in good reaching conditions in the trade winds.

The reefs and atolls of the Marshall Islands and Micronesia needed some dodging and captured a few boats. The doldrums opened up for me and I saw more than 4 kts tws at good angles to maintain progress. A complex weather system off the NZ waypoint cause anxiety in the fleet with deciding to go west of NZ. This was a mistake, as the wind strength did not drop too much for the race leaders.

Soon after the waypoint the leaders headed north east, like Olsson did in the past. The wind strength soon picked up and boat speeds well above 20 knots for long periods of time were common. The fleet flew across the southern ocean and those that managed to stay in good pressure with well timed gybes were soon at Cape Horn. Boat speeds were even higher after Cape Horn and it was over 1000nm later before my boat speed dropped to single figures. My best run was in the middle of the South Atlantic when my top speed almost hit 28 knots and my 24 hour run was over 625nm. During this fast run the leaders split, with some heading north early. They ran out of the strong breeze and lost 100nm to those that carried on east.

The last few days approaching Rio were as nervous as ever with changing complex weather challenging the navigators. However, I managed to make good enough decisions between covering my competitors and choosing fast routes to overtake the last few boats and take my best ever win.

Some statistics:

I took about 14 days from the start to cross the equator, then 7d to NZ, 7d to Pacific gate, 4d to Cape Horn and 6d to Rio.

After being #232 soon after the start, I was in top 25 at equator, <20 at NZ, <15 at Pacific gate, <10 at Cape Horn.

Winning Time 38d 5h 23m 9s

Bigbull + 6m20

Outlaw + 10m13

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From → The Sea

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