Hauling the mail
With boat speeds into the mid-20s in the flattish seas, so all three of the remaining VO70s are at present making good speed towards Cape Town, riding the front associated with a depression deep into the Southern Ocean below South Africa. As the front is orientated NW-SE so the boats have taken up their positions on it, like surfers on a large wave.
While all is good at the moment, although boat speeds are not high enough to threaten Ericsson 4's 24 hour record, the navigators will be keeping an eye on the GRIB files to see how this front develops and the ominous area of high pressure to their north. In particular Groupama look set to be in for some pain as they are the first to drop off the front as it recedes southeast and the high pressure fills in behind it. If the latest weather files are correct then the high appears to be developing a second centre to its southeast and come tomorrow morning Groupama will be very much in its clutches if they continue on their current course. Franck Cammas explains more below.
Meanwhile at the latest sched race leader, Telefonica has 1,191 miles to go until she reaches Cape Town. Being further south, the front will pass them tonight and with this the wind will back into the southwest forcing them to gybe. However while the wind is forecast to drop to around 15 knots in their southerly position they will still see more breeze than the boats to the north.
Last night Franck Cammas, skipper of Groupama, reported: "Today we made good progress ahead of a front which was moving east towards Cape Town which was turning around an anticyclone. So we were riding the front in good conditions with a flat sea and a good wind angle. We are slowly approaching the 40s, we are currently at 37 degrees, the temperature is dropping but we had some sunshine this afternoon so it was pleasant. We were set up with a wind angle of 130°, which allowed Groupama IV to often peak at over 21 knots of speed.
"We have to take a decision, as there are two possible routes to Cape Town. There is one where we stay with the front for as long as possible, however behind the front we would find ourselves very close the centre of the anticyclone. So this is the risk of this route but it is the shortest route. If this route is too risky, and we will have to see tomorrow morning, we have to make other plans and head south to avoid the anticyclone and pick up another front which is coming up behind and will propel us to the East but not necessarily directly towards Cape Town.
"The routing options, whether it’s option 1 or 2, should see us take 5 and a half days so that would be the evening of November 28 or the morning of November 29. For sure it’s far from being a motorway ride into Cape Town and unfortunately the gap with the other competitors is annoying for us because the competitors ahead of us don’t have any of the same weather risks as us and they can sail directly into Cape Town which will end up putting us two days behind."
Photo: Hamish Hooper/CAMPER ETNZ/Volvo Ocean Race
From on board Camper, Darryl Wislang reported: "The temperature has certainly come down a fair amount. Water temperature is around 15°, with about 22-25 knots of breeze. We’re getting along pretty good. There’s bucketloads of water coming over the deck. It’s like someone standing in front of you throwing buckets of freezing cold water at your face. Four hours [on watch] can be a long time but it makes it go fast when you’re humming along at 24-25 knots of boat speed.
“It’s nice knowing the miles are going by quickly. On the watch we averaged about 23 knots. In four hours we covered about 96 miles – we’re getting along.
“I don’t have very much to do with [navigation] to be perfectly honest but from what I understand Telefónica are probably going to hold on to the cold front a little bit longer than us because they’re a bit more advanced. The front will pass over us sooner. We just have to keep plugging away and keeping the pressure on them and see if they make a mistake.
“Getting in is always the highlight. We’re going to do a bit of cage diving and enjoy some good food.”