risk management

A one-design Volvo Ocean Race equals tight racing around the planet – that was certainly the case with the VO65 one-designs introduced for the last edition of the event. But things could change considerably next time around… Blue Robinson talked to Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s 2014/2015 race winning navigator Simon Fisher about rewriting the risk-reward equation as a result of ‘opening up’ the next edition of the race in 2017/18
Seahorse Magazine: Volvo Ocean Race CEO Mark Turner raised the element of a sheep mentality in the last race. How much of this was true, do you think?
Simon Fisher: From our team perspective onboard Azzam we were well prepared and so we set off with the mentality that we would be conservative, we wouldn’t take too many risks and would play the fleet, and with this preparation and good boat speed we were hoping other boats would fall off the back of us. By not taking risks and by consistently scoring good results we would do well, which was how it played out. I know from speaking to guys in other teams as the race progressed that they saw our approach as a good one, so when everyone got closer and learned from each other, sure, a herd mentality started to develop.
SH: This is after all a one-design fleet…
SF: Exactly. When we used to race on the VO70s every boat was different, with each having optimum angles and each with a slightly different sail package, so there were times you had to commit to sailing to the angle that was fast for you. Now with a one-design boat, theoretically everyone’s optimum angles are the same, and this, tied with the fact we can see each other on AIS all the time, meant it was close and so nobody wanted to take a big risk. Taking a risk means you might win a leg, but you also might come in sixth or seventh. So as the race went on the teams that we expected to take risks adjusted to a more conservative mindset to stay in the mix. For the stronger teams it made little sense to try to win a leg with a risky option.
SH: Ian Walker (Abu Dhabi skipper) didn’t have to reign you in at any stage?
Read on.