Fickle finish

The Volvo fleet now face a light beat to the finish

Tuesday May 28th 2002, Author: Peter Bentley, Location: Scandinavia
Positions at 1000GMT
Pos Name Lat Long DTF DTL CMG SMG
1 Assa Abloy 55 54.60N 004 55.76E 306 0 38 11.4
2 illbruck 55 53.84N 004 53.88E 308 2 39 12
3 Tyco 55 54.24N 004 52.36E 308 2 38 11.3
4 News Corp 55 51.72N 004 55.24E 309 3 36 11.7
5 SEB 56 00.84N 004 32.40E 310 4 45 9.1
6 Amer One 55 52.04N 004 42.32E 313 7 39 10.8
7 djuice 55 29.16N 004 31.36E 335 29 41 11.5
8 Amer Too 53 35.28N 002 31.84E 469 163 17 10.7

For the first time on this leg of the Volvo Ocean Race, the fleet has separated as each navigator and tactician looks to plot the optimum course through what promises to be tricky weather on the way in to the finish.

With Assa Abloy at or near the front of the pack, and illbruck currently well down the field, the prospect of the overall result being decided by the time the fleet get to Goteberg is receding. Clearly under pressure, illbruck have threatened Assa Abloy with a protest. " illbruck must be a little shaken at the moment, as they have thrown another petty protest at us regarding something to do with our running lights," said Mark Rudiger from on board Assa Abloy earlier. "They would like to distract us, but we're on a mission, and they would be better off focusing on their own tactics."

For the time being at least, SEB is leading, having worked a more westerly course in slightly more breeze. On the other side of the leading group is News Corp taking a more easterly route.

In the middle of this divide Assa Abloy continues to try and cover all options, whilst Tyco and illbruck are currently covering each other for third place, less than one mile apart.

Having faced a brutal slog upwind at the start, stunning downwind conditions on day two and more moderate running on day three, the fleet is now facing the possibility of a light airs beat for the final phase of the leg. All the weather models show Goteberg located somewhere in the middle of three different weather systems by late on Wednesday night and on into Thursday. Before then, the fleet will have to cross an area of lighter winds. To some extent the lighter and more variable conditions have already arrived with different boats in the fleet showing speeds from six to 11 knots at various times this morning.

SEB has gained a short term advantage by staying furthest west. Though she is currently in more wind, she also has the furthest east to go, potentially in less wind.

The majority of forecasts show light easterly winds come finish time. Unlike the more open ocean legs, the fleet is highly constrained in the final run in to the finish and there is little opportunity for the navigators to set up for a strategic approach.

"Gone are the days of rounding countries and continents, we now have to negotiate buoys, and on top of that, a small lighthouse on a Norwegian island just south of Arendel, with very limited room to manoeuvre," points out a contemplative Campbell Field from aboard News Corp. "Hopefully we will pass through in fair conditions during daylight, as there are a number of unlit marks and hazards. Thank god for modern day GPS and digital charting to aid navigation. Even so, it could be extremely hazardous to pass through these areas with bad weather and darkness, and with such a highly competitive race."

Tides, land-effected wind and possibly even day and night breezes are all now waiting to catch out the unwary. There is one suspects still a lot of racing to be done before the fleet reach Goteberg.

On the next pages see the reports from Emma Westmacott aboard
Amer Sports Too and illbruck rookie Ed Adams

Jason Carrington goes airborne...

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