Global hydraulic model crucial in new distance record during the Volvo Ocean Race

Published: 28 June 2018

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.

Tailored charts for forecasting tides and currents

Deltares produced specific forecast charts for the team based on the ‘Global Tide and Surge Model’, using Delft3D FM. The team and Deltares met regularly during the final training sessions before the race around the globe, making agreements about which data could be supplied and how to present them in the best way so the navigator could make fast decisions on the basis of the best available data. ‘Our model draws on various sources’, explains João Rego, an oceanographer and coastal engineer at Deltares. ‘So it contains gigantic amounts of data. The trick is to convert those data into practical charts. In this spectacular race, where just minutes can be the difference between victory and defeat, models have to meet the most stringent standards.’ The model switches between modelling on a large scale for the ocean currents to detailed models for coastal areas where the tides play a major role. And all that looking ahead over a period of seven days. João Rego: ‘The reliability, density and applicability of the data is what you need and that’s where we can make the difference.’

Cape Town stopover. In-Port Race. Photo by Pedro Martinez/Volvo Ocean Race. 08 December, 2017.

Data from the race used to improve flood risk management and water quality

In the coming months, Deltares will be working up the data collected by the AkzoNobel during the race with all the measuring equipment. Deltares can use those data and the experience of the team to improve the ‘Global Tide and Surge Model’. The model is also used for other applications such as the impact of sea level rise on coastal defences worldwide, but also for improving water quality and ecosystems. It provides an understanding of how plastic is transported through the water and where it accumulates. Deltares also uses the model to identify promising locations for aquaculture and to predict rip tides to improve safety for bathers. The data is available to third parties on globalfloodforecast.com.

Map of predicted ocean currents near Australia.

Because of the range of different possible applications, a consortium has been established with different parties to facilitate the research. The consortium participants are: STEAM Ocean Racing / Team Akzo Nobel, Van Oord, the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management / Rijkswaterstaat, Province of South Holland, Deltares and the Water & Maritime Top Sector.