While the coverage of the In-port
race and the start of leg 3 in the Volvo Ocean Race was spectacular in itself,
there are still subtle technical and technological differences to discover.
This is particularly true for the live coverage of the Leg starts. The boats
are in offshore configuration, running the very same gear that they are using
when they are hundreds of miles offshore and the cameras are invariably
switched off. This fantastic footage affords us a glimpse of the bits and
pieces that would normally remain hidden from us. The following pictures are
lifted from the VOR Live coverage of the start in Abu Dhabi and referenced to
the play time. The complete footage is above.
Furling Gear – 52min in video
All the teams are using furling
cables on their offshore A-Sails. Looking at the footage, most teams have opted for the convention torsional
cables, integrated into the sail by way of a luff pocket. The only exception is
Abu Dhabi who are using a ‘Gennaker Furling’ set up. The basic difference is
that instead of furling the sail from the bottom up (conventional), the cable
is independent of the sail (no luff pocket) and the torque, when furling, is
transferred over the full length of the cable and hence furling the sail from
the top down. The perceived advantage is that the sail designers have a bit
more freedom when designing the flying shape as they are not hindered by the
integrated luff cable. The sail can be designed and built fuller (if required)
without worrying about the furling characteristics. The cable has to be
marginally bigger (more windage?) than a standard torsional cable as it has to
be able to cope with considerably more torque.
|Abu Dhabi on the left with a loose-luffed gennaker furling cable|
Downwind Sail Design – 48min – 53min
Abu Dhabi’s A-sail used at the
start of leg 3 seemed to be fuller than
the rest of the fleet. Maybe this is a direct function of the furling
gear they are using (see above)? The other interesting difference is the luff
on Campers A-Sail. There seems to be ‘excess’ material and are those zippers
running up the full luff length? This has been seen on Open 6.50 (Mini Transat)
and the like, where the luff or foot is ‘zippable’ to change the shape and the
size of the sail. Could this be the same?
|Camper – Zippers in the Sail?|
|Abu Dhabi on the left – Telefonica right.|
Interestingly, although in their 3rd
generation, the difference in terms of optimum sail trim between these VOR70’s
is staggering. These pictures are from the on-board camera, taken shortly after
being released by the final ‘in-shore course’ mark on their way to Shairsha.
The jib sheeting position and the use of the mainsheet traveller is indicative
of each boats preferred mode at that particular angle.
|Telefonica left – Camper Right|
|Puma left – Groupama right|
Probably the coolest revelation of
this particular start and unfortunately the youtube feed is got cut just before
they came into view on the live feed on the day (hence no picture). Telefonica
has devised an ingenious way to transfer their ‘Stack’ from side to side
without having to drag them over the winches and pedestals, risking damage to
both sails and deck hardware. These ‘sliding bars’ slot into the top of the
winches, bridging the cockpit conveniently, allowing the crew to side the sails
straight over the top without snagging their gear. Although not executed
particularly well in this instance (sails fell off the sliders), the benefits are obvious. The only question
that remains is whether these bars have an additional use or does this system
justify the additional weight onboard?
Surely there are quite a few
more remarkable features yet to be discovered on these amazing machines – all the more reason to look
forward to another round of racing in Sanya, covered by the fantastic Volvo
Ocean Race team.