Still waiting

Anticipation is mounting in the Volvo fleet as the big breeze draws closer

Thursday January 31st 2002, Author: Peter Bentley, Location: Transoceanic

But there will be more breeze on the way soon

Tactically, the situation has not changed much in 24 hours. All the forecast show stronger westerlies to the south and the big decision will be when to gybe and start heading east. Go too soon and the course will have some north in it, taking you away from the strong winds. Go too late and the extra breeze will not be enough to make up for the additional distance. Who would be a navigator?

Matters are further complicated by a relative lack of reliable weather information. While the more populous regions of the world are dotted with weather observation stations and overflown by numerous satellites, the Southern Ocean is a lonely place. Few ships ply their trade across these icy seas. Though things have improved in recent years the fact remains that the weather information and forecasting for this part of the globe is neither as plentiful or as reliable as it is in lower latitudes.

Not for the first time, Paul Cayard likened the tactical decision making to gambling, "It is amazing what a guessing game it is. Las Vegas has nothing on ocean racing," he says from onboard Amer Sport One. "The tactics are tough here. So many variables and all going on simultaneously. That is why we use the routing tool. It is the best calculator of all the variables. But it is only as good as the input it gets. That's why we have to research the weather and adjust the model that is used by the router."

Steve Hayles, navigator on Tyco is more concerned with the relative positions of the V.O.60s on the race track, "The racing, as I am sure everyone is fed up with hearing, is very close and position reports mean very little, as we have constant visual or radar contact with most of the boats and the leader board has little relevance with so many miles to go and such a small distance separating the boats."

Amidst all this hectic racing, there are of course all the usual little problems of the race. "A little drama on board last night," reported Hayles from Tyco. "We found ourselves yet again with something hooked up on the rudder. We have a custom made curved weed stick which we can use from on board to clear weed and small bags etc without stopping, but it doesn't work so well with sharks. It was dark and hard to see but there was a sizeable sunfish or shark around the rudder." with no prospect of poking the offending fish off the rudder, Tyco was forced to drop the chute and 'back down' to clear it.

Page three.... an e-mail from Amer Sport Too

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