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VOR Leg 2: MAPFRE, no surprise, the early leader out of Lisbon bound for Cape Town

LISBON – After the 1400 UTC start today of Leg 2 in Portugal's Tagus River, there was the meaningless but entertaining reaching back and forth for the edification of the onshore spectators, the sponsors with their VIP guests, the modest spectator boat fleet, and the thousands of viewers watching the coverage on Facebook Live. After the better part of an hour, the seven-boat fleet finally made it's way out into the Atlantic and headed southwest. You can watch a replay of the nice livestream but ho-hum action here ( already over 100k views).

There was a puffy 15-20 knots in the river, but, as predicted, once in the ocean clear of land there was a lot more breeze – 30 knots from the NNE – and a following sea.

Then things got interesting. Esteemed veteran VOR and AC TV director Leon Sefton (NZL) had his helicopter gas up and head offshore to the fleet. He put Andy Green (GBR) and Sally Barkow (USA) back in the commentary booth, and then went live again on Facebook with stunning heli video of the yachts surfing down the waves at 25 knots. Too bad there were only 3.3k live viewers as this had not been promoted. However, those of us who had set up the auto-notification on our phones for when the VOR goes FB Live (easily done) enjoyed unprecedented live video. Your Ed. commends this video to you; watch a replay here.

MAPFRE showed her superior speed and was soon at the head of the pack. The differences in sail selection and technique was apparent and interesting, even for non-experts. Last place Turn the Tide on Plastic was noticeably less settled than the other boats. Interestingly, AkzoNobel skipper Simeon Tienpont (NED) was on the handles, not the wheel (while most if not all the other yachts had their skippers still on the wheel). Charlie Enright's (USA) Vestas 11th Hour Racing had max-possible sail area: full main, their masthead Code Zero, and not one but two jibs, a No. 2 and a 3. MAPFRE had the same sail compliment but was flying their smaller, fractional Code Zero, while the other teams had fractional Zeros with only one jib set under it.

Charlie Enright & Co. on Vestas 11th Hour Racing under full main, masthead Code Zero and two jibs.

Many pundits predicted that MAPFRE (ESP) would stretch her legs and show superior speed on this this 7,000nm three-week leg to Cape Town. This she is already doing as you can see in this screengrab of the live (for the first 24 hours) race tracker from a few minutes ago (1910 UTC / 1110 PDT) – although in the last few minutes the other pre-race favorite, Dongfeng Race Team (CHN), is showing equally good boat speed. Already MAPFRE is more than 7nm ahead of 7th place Turn the Tide on Plastic.

Unlike the previous (2011-12) edition of the VOR, there is no waypoint off the coast of Brazil that the yachts are required to leave to port. While going in that direction is normally the fastest way to Cape Town given prevailing winds south of the equator, this time it is possible for a team to try a much shorter route off the coast of Africa.

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