Published: Tuesday, 21 October 2014

It’s hasn’t been all smooth sailing for the Dongfeng Race Team on Leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race. On Oct 18 the Team had to perform an emergency rudder replacement in the pitch black of night. It took them less than two hours, but during that time they watched Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing sail straight past them as the Team dropped from first place to third. The team took back second place again, pushing hard to regain lost ground. The object hit remains unidentified.

Charles Caudrelier felt relieved being able to prove his team could compete in these conditions with the likes of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing. “At least knowing we have good boat speed is one less thing to worry about,” Caudrelier said, before the incident.

A Ballsy Move By Dongfeng Race Team 2 

The Team managed to regain first position among the fleet however just hours afterwards, navigator Pascal Bidégorry was faced with an important strategic decision. Should the team follow the fleet and sail around the top of Cape Verde or break away and sail through the island cluster knowing full well they could run flat out of wind?

Conventional wisdom, and what many consider the more conservative route, is to go around the islands passing the western most islands to the north as the height of the volcanic islands (up to 2,500m) will cast a wind shadow, which can extend to several tens of miles on the downwind side of each island, cancelling out any wind that might reach the boat.

However, conservative decisions aren’t really Pascal Bidégorry’s style. Like any good navigator, he knows when to call it a day but Pascal has balls and when he sees an opportunity he is likely to go for it. Backed by Skipper Charles Caudrelier, they have made for an exciting show as they opted that night to sail straight through the islands of Cape Verde and break away from the fleet.

A Ballsy Move By Dongfeng Race Team 3

“I’m surprised at the teams who have chosen to go through the islands where there are massive wind shadows and unpredictable gusting winds,” says Abu Dhabi’s Skipper Ian Walker. “These teams also face the risk of setting themselves up too far east to cross the Doldrums.”

Mapfre and Team Vestas, decided to bail out from the Abu Dhabi plan and took an initial hit. They have now sailed through the two most western islands, a risky but potentially good move.

A Ballsy Move By Dongfeng Race Team 4

It’s been a navigator’s race so far. As it stands the boys seem to be hanging on to the wind quite well but the question is, has Pascal Bidégorry pulled off a great chess move? Or will they get caught in the wind shadows of the Cape Verde islands.