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#VOR - The Volvo Ocean Race’s most experienced sailor will return for the 2017-18 edition this autumn when Bouwe Bekking joins Team Brunel for another run around the world.

Bekking is fresh off his stint as tactician with the crew of J Class yacht Lionheart, winners of both the inaugural America’s Cup J Class Regatta — landing them a handmade relief map of Bermuda courtesy of Latitude Kinsale — and the Superyacht Regatta just days before.

The 54-year-old Dutchman made his first appearance in the VOR, then known at the Whitbread Round The World Race, in 1985 as crew on Philips Innovator, which finished second in that race.

Thirty years on — and more miles sailed than any other in the history of the gruelling global offshore challenge — he skippered Dutch entry Team Brunel to that same first-runner-up spot in the 2014-15 edition of the VOR.

He will be looking to break that duck come the 2017-18 edition, which sets sail from Alicante in under four months’ time with a confirmed eight-strong fleet that will its way around the globe to reach The Hague in June 2018.

Bekking also skippers one of four teams returning for a second successive edition, along with Team Vestas Wind, MAPFRE and China’s Dongfeng Race Team.

Published in Volvo Ocean Race

VO65 Team Brunel has broken the ARC Course Record sailing from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria to Rodney Bay, Saint Lucia in an elapse time of 8d 7h 39m 30s. This is the third consecutive year that the Course Record has been beaten; a year ago, Mike Slade's super-maxi Farr 100 Leopard by Finland took over two days off the previous record set by Caro, a Knierim 65 in 2013. 'Near-perfect' conditions for this year's crossing have seen Team Brunel propelled towards Saint Lucia and into the ARC history books for breaking the record on the rally's 30th edition.

The 15 strong crew on the round the world racing yacht consists of 5 professional sailors and 10 experienced amateurs who were chasing a bucket list adventure and they have not been disappointed! From the day ARC 2015 set sail from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Team Brunel has sprinted to the sun-soaked shores of Saint Lucia, with an average VMG of 13.5kts since the start and top wave surfing speeds of double that at times. Persistent north easterly winds due to the well-established Azores High have allowed them to zig-zag the rhumb line route for much of their crossing. Interestingly, the total distance covered on their transatlantic route is greater than the two previous record holders at 3342NM.

But their ARC experience has not been without drama and on Sunday, On Board Reporter Koen Lockefeer announced a potentially disastrous mainsail tear had occurred during a routine gybe. After a night reefed down, it was all hands on deck for a race ready repair the following morning, "Johnny and Tomas started to organize the ripped sail part, climbing up the end of the swinging boom. They tied the top and bottom end of the sail together with lashes between the sail battens as if the ripped middle part had never been there. All hands on deck again to hoist the sail to max height, about as high as 1.5 reef and carefully sheet in the main again. To everyone's joy the boat started speeding off again ... As the old sailor's wisdom states: before you can win a race you first have to finish it. The broken mainsail and subsequent repair were a very close escape from not finishing at all."

Team Brunel were welcomed to Saint Lucia at 16:24 local time (20:24 UTC) and greeted by representatives from the Saint Lucia Tourist Board and IGY Rodney Bay Marina. The crew were presented with champagne and welcome basket of island gifts to celebrate their arrival.

Celebrations are likely to continue for much of the evening around Rodney Bay. Team Brunel's nearest ARC rivals, Durlindana 3 (ITA) are still some way off reaching their berth in the Marina, and are currently expected to arrive around 20:00 local time on Thursday 3rd December. In the ARC Multihull division, trimaran La Caravelle (FRA) has consistently led the fleet and is expected to arrive on the 5th December if conditions hold. Boats in the Cruising Division will enjoy life at sea for a while longer; over the coming days many will celebrate their own milestones reaching half-way and are enjoying calmer conditions after a breezy departure from Las Palmas just over a week ago.

However the Team Brunel crew will no doubt be embraced by their fellow arrivals from the ARC+ fleet. Departing from their stopover in Mindelo, Cape Verdes five days earlier than the ARC fleet left Las Palmas, and with a shorter distance to sail to Rodney Bay, 18 of the 59 ARC+ boats have made land fall so far.

Published in Cruising

#rorc – Over 50 yachts from Austria, Belgium, France, Great Britain, Holland – but not Ireland – will contest the 180 mile race from Harwich, UK to Scheveningen, Holland. The North Sea Race is the fourth race of the RORC Season's Points Championship and has a weighted points score of 1.2 towards the series points tally.

The hot favourite for Line Honours will be the Dutch Volvo Ocean 65, Team Brunel. Skippered by Bouwe Bekking, this will be the first occasion that one of the new one-design racing yachts has raced with the Royal Ocean Racing Club. Three other Volvo Ocean 65 are already confirmed for the Sevenstar Round Britain & Ireland Race this August.
"Racing is always better than training." commented Bouwe Bekking. "There is always that little bit of extra adrenalin flowing through the crew, that little bit of edge that will keep the momentum going, racing is a really good way to prepare for a big event. We have now announced the whole team bar one extra person and the on board reporter, so for the North Sea Race, the big part of the team will be together for the first time and we will continue our build up for the Volvo Ocean Race, which starts in October."

Dutch Volvo 60 Pleomax makes its RORC racing debut for 2014, once again led by North Sea Race veteran, Harm Prims. Pleomax won IRC Zero in last year's North Sea Race to kick start a season, in which the Dutch team also won IRC Zero for the RORC Season's Points Championship.

In IRC One, a close battle is expected between four highly regarded yachts that have competed in the race before. Austrian ILC40, Visione, skippered by Nikolaus Knoflacher, is the scratch boat and will need to put some distance on Leon Westhoeve's BH41, Soulmate, which was a class winner last year. Two J/133s make up the class with British skipper, Angus Bates in charge of Assarain IV and Dutch skipper, Bart Desaunois, racing Batfish Two Handed.
Fresh from their win in last weekend's Myth of Malham Race. Vincent Willemart and Eric Campenhout's Belgian MC34, Azawakh will be racing in IRC Two. Azawakh will be ranked as one of the favourites for this race.
12 yachts will be racing in the Two Handed Class that are all based in Holland, including several that raced in the short handed discipline last year; Astrid De Vin's Il Corvo, Chris Schram's So What and Harry Rek's Harpoen.

Ian Ivermee's Sigma 33, Woozle Hunter will be racing in Class IRC Four and is one of the smallest yachts in the race. "I have done the race several times before but this will be the first time in my own boat." commented Ian, who is a member of the Marconi Sailing Club. "This is the first season with the boat and I have been putting the crew together, which includes my wife and a paramedic. I doubt that we will be able to keep up with Brunel but we might try to get on her quarter wave and hitch a ride! However in all seriousness, if it is a light airs race, we could do quite well after time correction, who knows?"

The start of the race will test the navigational skills of all of the yachts, with eight or more buoys to round off the coast of Harwich, before leaving the Greater Gabbard Offshore Wind Farm to Port and heading out into the open ocean to Smith's Knoll Buoy, where the fleet will head east to the finish, outside Scheveningen.

Published in RORC

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