Closing on Kleinjans

Portimão Global Ocean Race leaders off the Brazilian coast

Wednesday November 5th 2008, Author: Brian Hancock, Location: United Kingdom
The wind has kicked in and speeds are up for the chasing pack sailing down the South Atlantic on leg one of the Portimão Global Ocean Race. Another small area of low pressure has spun off the Brazilian coast and it is bringing some perfect sailing conditions to the Chileans aboard Desafio Cabo de Hornos and the British aboard Team Mowgli.

The system is just starting to effect the leading solo sailor, Michel Kleinjans aboard Roaring Forty. Unfortunately for Kleinjans the two Class 40s positioned to the west of him picked up the breeze first and both boats have knocked 20 miles off his lead. At the 21:20 UTC poll this evening the gap between the two Class 40s and Roaring Forty was down to just 38 miles, down from more than 100 a week ago.

Sunny skies and a good breeze had Jeremy Salvesen on Team Mowgli in an ebullient frame of mind. “Well, we have finally found real wind at last and are now trucking along at 11 to 12-plus knots (top speed today 14.55 knots) in 16-plus knots of wind,” he wrote. “We have a low pressure system in front of us and if we are lucky we should be able to hitch a ride pretty much all the way to Cape Town, although it still means going a long, long way south in order to get round the stationery high pressure system in the middle of the Atlantic. The cat and mouse game with the red hot chile peppers has continued for the last 24 hours with each of us holding second position on a number of occasions. If it has been exciting for our supporters, it has been the life-blood of our daily routine here on Mowgli.”

On board Desafio Cabo de Hornos the mood was similar. Skipper Felipe Cubillos sent the following report to his ever increasing list of supporters. “For two days now we have been sailing close to the British boat. I am sure we both anxiously await each position report. The latest report at 18:00 UTC had them ahead by 0.4 miles. That is just 740 metres! After three weeks of sailing this is just incredible.”

At the 21:20 UTC position report Desafio Cabo de Hornos had regained the lead and on a distance-to-go basis were just over a mile ahead. For all practical purposes they are dead even. The distance-to-go calculations use an arbitrary waypoint down the track a little. A slight adjustment of the location of the waypoint will result in slightly different position reports.

While the brisk conditions are definitely good news and the racing nail-bitingly close, it’s this little area of low pressure that is intriguing weather prognosticators, myself among them. The system is forecast to move with the chasing pack for the next few days bringing them moderate northerly winds. Desafio Cabo de Hornos, Team Mowgli and Roaring Forty will all experience some very good sailing which will allow them to get rapidly south.

The interesting part of all this is what will happen to Beluga Racer. Currently the German team is 500 miles east and slightly south of the chasers and the weather forecast does not look that good for them. The high pressure is due to reform to the south of Beluga Racer feeding Boris and Felix steady easterly winds. Their only option will be to dive south leaving the high pressure to the east, but they have to be careful. They are sailing in an area where the high likes to lurk and if it expands, like it usually does, they will experience much lighter winds than the rest of the fleet. It will be difficult to almost impossible for them to get over the top of the high, and it’s a long way to sail to get under it.Boris and Felix aboard Beluga Racer are tight lipped about the forecast.

They have a substantial lead over their competitors, but a couple of days of slow going while the other dive under the high and it could be a very different ball game. As usual, only time will tell. My gut tells me that things are going to tighten up a lot as the weekend approaches. Stay tuned.

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