Business as usual
Amer Sports One and illbruck battle shortly after the start
"As is becoming normal, we started upwind and are still sailing upwind," reported Nick White from aboard News Corp shortly after the start. Though billed as a predominantly downwind race, every leg so far has started with a sharp beat and White can not be alone in wondering if it would be better to do the race backwards.
The trip down the New Zealand coast has proved a tough battle with the leading boats rarely out of sight of one another. Short tacking and repeated sail changes have been the order of the day as the wind varies in strength and direction. There has been plenty for the navigators to think about with of headlands to round and the never ending conundrum of more distance and more wind off shore to balance against less distance to sail in lighter winds close to the rocks.
"Right now we are side by side with illbruck and News Corp," reported Knut Frostad from onboard djuice as darkness fell on the first night. "All the top boats are very close together. We have most of the others to weather of us, after we managed to sneak in between some rocks (Ohinau Island) and the main land. If you get too far into the bay, you will get less wind, so we have to watch the whole fleet carefully. We are prepared for a long night with dropping wind. For sure there will be some frustrating moments, but then again, it's even more important to stay cool."
In the short term a small ridge of high pressure is blocking the route south. "It looks like light winds will be on the menu for some time as we negotiate a high pressure system to the south of us blocking our route to the good strong westerlies that this leg is all about," says Kevin Shoebridge from onboard Tyco. The light airs are not however totally unwelcome. In contrast to the start of previous legs, the motion has been easier with crews falling into the watckeeping and sleeping pattern much more easily than if they were beating into 25 knots. "It has been an easier first day than we often experience and the guys have been able to get some decent rest overnight which everyone is pleased about," says Shoebridge. Also in contrast to previous legs, no damage has been reported so far.
In terms of position, there is little in it with the leading boats sailing into the ridge, and thus light winds, earlier than those behind, closing up the fleet. Distance to go to the finish, though illustrative of the placings of the fleet is not a totally reliable guide, with position on the course relative to the weather perhaps more critical at this stage.
Volvo Ocean Race Position Report, 28 January , 0359 GMT
Page two ... Paul Cayard's Thoughts
Page three.... A message from Knut Frostad