Second fleet through the Canaries

Portimão Global Ocean Race tackles the Atlantic islands

Thursday October 16th 2008, Author: Brian Hancock, Location: United Kingdom
At the 18:20 UTC poll this evening the three leading boats in the Portimão Global Ocean Race were through their first tactical obstacle of the race, the Canary Islands. The island group presents some tricky sailing for even the most experienced navigators. Tricky because of currents, but more importantly because of wind the funnels between the islands. Timed right and with a bit of luck on your side, you can get a strong push in the right direction. Timed wrong and it can go all pear-shaped. The islands of Tenerife and Gran Canaria are mountainous, Tenerife being the highest at 3718 meters. The venturi effect caused by the narrow gap between the two results in a major increase in wind strength. The down side is that both islands cast a long wind shadow and if you get stuck in the windless lee it’s a long and painful process to claw back into the breeze.

The Chilean team of José Muñoz and Felipe Cubillos aboard Desafio Cabo de Hornos chose a more conservative approach opting to to sail between Gran Canaria and Feurteventura. The gap between islands is wider and Fuerteventura is nowhere near as mountainous as the other two islands meaning that the funnel effect will be less dramatic. Same too with the potential pitfall of a wind shadow. Their tactic seems to pay dividends and Cubillos and Muñoz have opened up a nine mile lead on their closest rivals Boris Herrmann and Felix Oehme on Beluga Racer. The leading solo skipper, Michel Kleinjans is following the Chileans while Boris and Felix opted, typically, to take a gamble that lady luck would give them a boost between Gran Canaria and Tenerife. In the end there was no gain nor loss and the tight battle among Desafio Cabo de Hornos, Beluga Racer and Roaring Forty continues.

Further back in fleet there is another close race between Kazimir Partners and Hayai. The South African team on Kazimir Partners are a scant four miles behind the Dutch sailor Nico Budel who is sailing a superb race managing his Open 40 with great skill in perfect trade wind conditions. It would appear that skipper Lenjohn Van Der Wel has
opted to leave the island group to the east and has gybed to position themselves as the westernmost boat in the fleet. Between the two races-within-the-race is Team Mowgli, England's great hope in the Portimão Global Ocean Race, is following in the wake of the Chilean and Belgium teams.

The weather pattern ahead is typical trade wind sailing. Traditionally there is more wind closer to the African coast as the hot sands of the Sahara desert generate their own wind gradient to add to the trades. A quick glace at the weather map shows strong winds directly ahead of Desafio Cabo de Hornos and Roaring Forty and providing they
are not forced into a bad gybe angle to get away from the African coast, they look to make some decent gains over the next 48 to 96 hours.

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