Telefonica into the lead
Around 1400 yesterday, the Iker Martinez-skippered Telefonica overtook Puma to take the lead of this opening leg of the Volvo Ocean Race. Since rounding the Fernando de Noronha the Spanish VO70 has taken a slightly more easterly route south compared to her American rival. As Puma skipper Ken Read explained: “They put on their left blinker at Fernando and never looked back. They committed to the high land, and, by the time we wanted to start to lean in that direction as well, we simply could never get there.
“It’s not exactly that easy. First, we liked what we were doing. Second, it is a big ocean and when you can’t see your competitor, it is hard to cover. Third, a lot can happen in a three-hour period, which is when we get position report updates. And, finally, we don’t want to be reactionary. That is the easiest way to get reeled in from behind.”
Over the last 24 hours the two leaders have been 'stretching the elastic' again over the boats astern. 24 hours ago Camper and Groupama were 148 and 344 miles off the lead. This has now increased to 169 and 415 miles respectively. However this isn't the complete story. While all the fleet has generally been making fast miles, Puma erred too close to the depression forming south of the leaders. This caused her speed to drop and has since forced her to change on to a course converging with Telefonica. As a result at the latest sched Puma is now 51 miles astern of her rival. However this is good news for Camper which has now closed to 118 miles of Puma.
Heading east at this stage of the leg to Cape Town is unusual (compared to what the boats did in the last race here). While they have been prompted to make this move early thanks to the depression to their south, in fact the all-important weather in the south of the South Atlantic now appears to be panning out well for the leaders. The high a long way to their south, currently centred at 40°S 32°W, is forecast to track slowly east and then slightly northeast so that its centre is around 35°S 08°W come lunchtime Tuesday. This is suitably far east so that the leaders should be able to make it around the southwest side of the high in favourable winds. The even longer term forecast has a depression rolling through to the south towards the end of next week causing the high to recede north and the leaders to be able to set a course directly to Cape Town in good pre-frontal conditions, although possibly not record breaking. In short it looks like they are going to be able to sail very much fewer miles than they have had to in the past on this leg.