Tackling the undulating high

Groupama is moving again as the road ahead looks rocky for the westerly group in the Volvo Ocean Race

Wednesday November 9th 2011, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

Chart above courtesy of Expedition/Tasman Bay Navigation Systems and PredictWind.

While there is a northwest-southeast split in the Transat Jacques Vabre IMOCA 60s, so this also remains the case in the Volvo Ocean Race with Groupama continuing her flier along the African coast as the three remaining boats continue to head offshore.

After grinding to a halt yesterday, so Groupama is back up to 10 knots, but having to gybe downwind along the narrow corridor of wind between the ridge and the African coast. "We're chasing after an embryo of tradewind airs, which is shifting southwards with us. If we manage to hook onto it, we believe that our option could pay off. If not, we're going to have to consider reducing our consumption of food and diesel, as we might end up floundering here for a while..." reported the French team's media crewman Yann Riou this morning. "Since yesterday evening we've had an established northeasterly wind of around ten knots, which is a fairly good sign..."

One advantage of Groupama's risky tactic is that it keeps them closer to the great circle, so despite making less boat speed they are making good VMG towards the mark.

At present the ridge remains in situ, parallel with the African coast and heading out to sea to the southwest around the Canaries. But for Groupama they will only really feel the benefit of the Trades once they are past Lanzarote, some 250 miles further down the race track.

Meanwhile Telefonica continues to lead, her skipper Iker Martinez and Xabi Fernandez no doubt buoyed by winning the ISAF Rolex Sailor of the Year award in Puerto Rico last night.

At 1000GMT Telefonica was 45 miles due north of Madeira still with Puma on her hip, around 8 miles to her north, and with Camper some 65 miles astern. Conditions are finally coming good for this group with the wind veering into the north which allowed Telefonica and Puma to crack off and hoist their kites at arond 0600 this morning. These two are now out of the southwesterlies associated with the ridge off the African coast and feeling the effects of the eastern end of the giant lobe of high pressure that many miles to the west, boats like MACIF are attempting to cross in the TJV. 

However this trio is not out of the woods yet. According to the European model the eastern extremity of the high is moving around quite a bit over the next 48 hours and tonight and into tomorrow morning, in particular, it looks like this group will come to a grinding halt as the high moves southwest of Madeira. Their best tactics appear to be to continue west with the aim of hooking into the strong northerlies associated with a depression that starts its course across the North Atlantic on Friday. We can expect a grand reunion of the fleet to the southwest of the Canaries and our guess would be that by this time Groupama will have taken the lead.



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