Puma's Amory Ross: Back in the race

Puma's Amory Ross: Back in the race

Sunday April 1 2012 Author: Amory Ross Location: none selected

Location: 180 miles E of Punta Medanosa
Boat speed: 3 KTS
Wind speed: 5 KTS
Heading: 302-degrees
DTF: 1,450 miles

Today our race began. Almost simultaneously with daylight’s first sched, the focus clearly became Groupama and the remaining miles to Itajai. Not to discount the last 13 days of this leg, but things have almost started anew out here. With just 12 miles separating us, an elusive first place is well within our reach, and the current fleet circumstances make things even more interesting.

With four of the teams missing in action there is almost no threat from a trailing boat; we can take all the risks in the world during these final 1,400 miles and not have to worry too much about losing anything to anyone but Groupama. The weather forecasts show plenty of passing lanes to the east and west, dodging through (or around) several windless high-pressure systems and a doldrums like feature to the north. If we wanted to take a flyer and gain some leverage, to put some distance between us and find our own weather, we easily could.

That could fail massively, too, and is that the way we want to approach this? We’ve had a few days of good relative boat speed, and we’re happy with our light-air downwind performance – a point of sail we’ll have more of on the way to Brazil. One train of thought has us being conservative and following them around the ocean, trying to stay in the same body of water, sailing in the same winds, grinding them down by being faster. But the French are tough to predict. Leg 1 and 2 they made bold decisions, legs 3 and 4 they played it safe; it’s hard to know what they’re thinking, and that in turn makes our decision making process tougher.

The facts:
1) We have very little to lose with Telefónica 350 miles behind.
2) There are two distinct routes north, one inshore and one offshore.
3) Groupama is fast and unpredictable, but we don’t feel slow.

So do we:
4) Trust our speed, aim at their stern, and wave as we go by?
5) Strike out on our own and pass them with better winds?

It’ll be a busy few days of trying to find the right answer!

- Amory

Tom Addis (L) and Ken Read discuss tactics near the navigation station. PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG during leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Auckland, New Zealand, to Itajai, Brazil. (Photo: Amory Ross/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race)

Casey Smith waits for action by the mast. PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG during leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Auckland, New Zealand, to Itajai, Brazil. (Photo: Amory Ross/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race)

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