Roadblock ahead?

A ridge of high pressure is blocking the path of the Volvo fleet

Monday May 6th 2002, Author: Peter Bentley, Location: Transoceanic
Position report at 04.00 6th May 2002

Latitude Longitude DTF CMG SMG TFHR DTL DTL-C Pts
1 illbruck 47 39.80N 022 30.84W 874 103 9.6 329 0 0 49
2 Tyco 47 24.80N 023 10.52W 901 114 9.1 321 27 7 34
3 Assa Abloy 47 52.52N 023 17.72W 905 100 8.2 318 31 8 40
4 News Corp 47 59.08N 023 49.16W 926 93 9.8 340 52 -3 36
5 Amer One 47 55.72N 024 05.04W 937 97 10 335 63 -3 36
6 SEB 45 49.80N 023 54.80W 942 109 9.5 307 68 6 24
7 djuice 47 23.64N 024 17.88W 947 95 10 327 73 -4 23
8 Amer Too Rtd

With the order of the fleet established not long after leaving America's east coast, position changes have been few and far between on leg seven. Finally on day nine, Amer Sports One has overhauled SEB, and moved into 5th place. Grant Dalton and his hard driving team are now within striking distance of News Corp, just 11 miles ahead.

Unlike SEB, Dalton has taken a very similar path to the rest of the fleet, electing to sail a slightly longer distance but avoiding the lightest winds at the centre of the high pressure system. Though SEB could conceivably gain if the ridge collapsed south there appears to be little opportunity for Krantz and his crew to rectify the situation in the near future.

In the normal run of things 11 miles represents a big gap and Dalton would have to chip away, yard by yard and mile by mile to get back the distance on News Corp. There are however, some developing tactical options which could see Dalton on the podium in La Rochelle. The fleet is sailing into a weak ridge of high pressure. This is bringing light airs and the crew that negotiate these best will be well placed as they approach the Bay of Biscay and La Rochelle. "We have just finished a sail change to some bigger gear for the lightening winds ahead," says Anthony Nossiter from onboard djuice.

After a long period of strong winds djuice is not alone in having to dig out her light airs sails. "The boys on deck have just asked me were the Code 2 [spinnaker] is," continues Nossiter. "This is a light air running spinnaker. There are so many sails on deck all stacked upon each other that you tend to loose track of where sails are between watches and in the dark. I think I headed them in the right direction having seen it squashed under a few heavier spinnakers."

Conscious as ever of the boats behind her, illbruck has altered course to adopt a classic 'keep between the opposition and the mark' strategy. Though short term tactical thinking will to some extent be determining illbruck skipper, John Kostecki's thinking, the issue of how best to approach La Rochelle will also be starting to enter the equation.

A steadily deepening low pressure system is forecast to developed over southern France bringing with it north or northeasterly winds in place of the more usual westerlies. Keen to avoid any upwind work on the final run in, the fleet will be looking to keep well north to avoid this possibility on the final approach.

Sidney Gavignet trimming for speed on Assa Abloy

Page two... An e-mail from djuice Anthony Nossiter dreaming of Oysters and Wine
Page three.. An e-mail from Mark Rudiger aboard Assa Abloy

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