So... you're probably wondering what all this Leg Zero fuss is about. Well, it’s pretty simple – Leg Zero starts on Wednesday 2 August and is made up of a series of mini races which kickstart an exciting period of pre-race activity for the 2017-18 fleet.
Along with the Prologue, which takes place in early October (don't panic –see more at the bottom of this story), Leg Zero has replaced the previous 2,000-mile mandatory qualification voyage which teams had to complete in order to enter the race – and although the mileage is similar, this new format is way more advantageous for the teams in terms of crew training, boat-on-boat action and commercial activity.
In previous editions, teams were prevented from two-boat tuning in the lead up to the race. This time, we’ve changed that – and Leg Zero and the Prologue will be full-fleet races. They’re important to the sailors as they’re the final chances to get a view on the opposition and try out some different things.Phil Lawrence, Race Director
“The sailors will have one eye on what their rivals are doing in terms of crew set-up and sail configuration, and will be keen to use the opportunity to get some close racing action before the race goes live in October.”
So, what’s the plan? Well, Leg Zero actually consists of a series of races, beginning at Cowes Week on the Isle of Wight, and ending at the Volvo Boatyard in Lisbon, Portugal.
“At the end of the Fastnet we'll see which teams are stronger than others," explains Dongfeng Race Team skipper Charles Caudrelier. "You can have a few surprises during the Fastnet as there are new teams that we don't know much about – but it's important to see if we did a good job with our preparation so far.”
Overview – Leg Zero key dates
- Wednesday 2 August: Cowes Week Round Isle of Wight Race
- Sunday 6 August: Rolex Fastnet Race starts
- Wednesday 9 August: Rolex Fastnet Race ETA
- Thursday 10 August: Fleet departs Plymouth
- Friday 11 August: Fleet arrives in St Malo
- Sunday 13 August: Fleet departs St Malo
- Wednesday 16 August: Fleet ETA in Lisbon
“The fleet will compete in the Round Isle of Wight Race, as part of the Triple Crown at Cowes Week, on Wednesday 2 August, before setting off for the Rolex Fastnet Race which is organised by the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) and starts on Sunday 6 August,” Phil adds.
“That will take around three days to complete, and then the boats will be back in Plymouth by Wednesday 9 August, where they will stay overnight, before beginning a race to Lisbon, Portugal on Thursday 10 August.”
But the fleet won’t be heading straight to the Boatyard in Lisbon. In a bonus for French fans, the boats will be calling at one of France’s most famous sailing hotspots.
“We’re going to visit St Malo for a short pit-stop,” continues Phil. “The boats will arrive there on Friday lunchtime and there’ll be a short, coastal Pro-Am on the Saturday, before the sailors leave on Sunday 13 August to continue the race to Lisbon.”
- Monday 18 September: Assembly Period begins in Lisbon
- Saturday 30 September: Assembly Period ends in Lisbon
The next compulsory date is the beginning of the Assembly Period in Lisbon on Monday 18 September. “The Assembly Period lasts lasts for around two weeks, and is valuable time for the Boatyard as they will be able to crane all of the boats out of the water and complete final pre-race measurement and safety checks,” Phil adds.
“Meanwhile, the crews will complete a mandatory sea survival course and medical workshop. There will be several other different workshops and courses for the sailors to undertake delivered by Boatyard suppliers and related to different areas of the boat."
- Sunday 8 October: Prologue Race Lisbon–Alicante begins
- Thursday 12 October: Prologue Race ETA Alicante
The fleet races from Lisbon to Alicante before the Alicante In-Port Race on Saturday 14 October, and the race start itself on Sunday 22 October.