Ocean research and high-level sports during the Volvo Ocean Race

The AkzoNobel team set a new distance record during the Volvo Ocean race. 'Good navigation using the Deltares models for tides and currents was one of the important factors behind the new record,' says Simeon Tienpont. The team led by skipper Simeon Tienpont sailed no less than 602.51 nautical miles in 24 hours.

Deltares produced specific forecast charts based on the ‘Global Tide and Surge Model’ (GTSM) and on the ‘3D Dutch Continental Shelf Model - Flexible Mesh’ (3D DCSM-FM), using Delft3D FM and Delft-FEWS, during the entire 2017-2018 Volvo Ocean Race. To achieve this, a 14-month applied research cooperation was designed between Deltares and the Sailing Team AkzoNobel (TAN), in which our software was used and improved to produce steady global predictions of surface currents. The surface current predictions (the model accuracy and the system reliability) were checked by the sailing team in real-time in the harsh and competitive environments of the Volvo Ocean Race. The sailors and Deltares met regularly during the training sessions before the race around the globe, making practical agreements like data supply and service levels.  During the race, Deltares had further contact with the AkzoNobel team during their regular stopovers in locations around the globe.

A major part of the activities was the delivery of surface current predications for up to 7 days in advance in a number of areas around the globe, corresponding to the planned legs of the Volvo Ocean Race. The selection of the areas and the timeframes was derived from the discussions with partners about their specific needs, and their ongoing feedback about the predictions as they were produced. Also, race constraints were sometimes decided very last minute based on external conditions (such as the Antarctic Ice Exclusion Zone, depending on weather and on iceberg observations).

The last three legs of the race took place in the North Sea. Unlike the ‘rest of the world’ where the forecasts provided to TAN were a combination of the GTSM and NOAA’s HYCOM, on the North Sea results were taken directly from our 3D DCSM-FM, which is a joint development between Deltares and Rijkswaterstaat. This allowed the operational use and further experience with a full 3D model forced also by the wind, which produces directly the predicted currents for a very thin surface layer.

This project required Deltares to demonstrate our ‘flexibility’ to the maximum degree, in support of competitive sailing team AkzoNobel. We combined several tools and provided near 24h support for more than 1 year to provide the best input the team needed to make strategic and tactical decisions, under pressure and under the spotlight.  Furthermore, the forecasts were also provided to other partners in the cooperation project (like Van Oord, Rijkswaterstaat and the Province of South Holland) to discuss the usability and reliability of the predictions for their own specific needs.






Nov. 2017: “Dutch research and high-level sports come together during Volvo Ocean Race”


June 2018: “Global hydraulic model crucial in new distance record during the Volvo Ocean Race”


Deltares R&D highlights, 2019: “Ocean research and outstanding sporting performance during the Volvo Ocean Race”





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