Groupama 226 miles ahead

Tables due to turn today in favour of the westerly group in the Volvo Ocean Race

Friday November 11th 2011, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

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

Franck Cammas' Groupama continued to hammer the rest of the Volvo Ocean Race fleet over the course of yesterday morning as the trio to the west of Telefonica, Puma and Camper were all forced to tack on to a course 70° from the mark or riskbeing becalmed, running into a ridge to their south. As a result at 0730 this morning, the green and orange French boat has extended her lead to 226 miles ahead of the Iker Martinez-skippered Telefonica, with Puma a further 10 miles astern and Camper another 57 miles back.

Groupama, now 560 miles southeast of Puma, is into building NNEerly trade winds, and although she is still dead downwind, trying to stay in pressure (ie without erring too fast west) with the increased breeze the French VO70 is able to sail deeper angles. Over the course of this morning so far she has been making more than 15 knots.

Meanwhile to the northwest Camper tacked southwest at around 1322 yesterday afternoon as the wind started veering into the west. She was followed by Puma and Telefonica around three hours later. This has allowed the Emirates Team New Zealand boat to regain some ground on her rivals. Since then all three boats have been back on to a southwesterly course. They were making good progress on this course overnight, but as they approach the ridge once again this morning their speeds have dropped to just under 6 knots. But good news is on its way: This afternoon the forecast indicates that Puma and Telefonica will be first to pick up the building northwesterly new breeze (from an area of high pressure moving east to their northwest), the wind continuing to veer into the north this evening and building to 25-30 knots by which time they will be eating up the miles once again.

In fact it looks like the tables will turn very much in favour of the westerly group as the area of high pressure to their southeast edges towards the African coast, causing Groupama to slow later today and over the course of Saturday, before the trades establish themselves properly over the breadth of race course on Sunday and we have a yacht race on our hands once again, rather than a meteorologist's lottery.

In the longer term, for the trio, getting so much westing in won't be such a bad thing as it should give them a faster angle across the trades to get south to the Doldrums, whereas the further due south Groupama is forced to sail at this stage, the more dead downwind the trades will be for them later on.

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