Becalmed off the Cape of Good Hope

Two lights of light winds ahead of the Volvo Ocean Race as they exit South Africa

Monday December 12th 2011, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

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

Well this is not the rock and roll start we were expecting... This morning the six VO70s are becalmed off the Cape of Good Hope and in the lead is Franck Cammas' Groupama 4. Meanwhile leg 1 winner and victor in Saturday's in port race, the Iker Martinez-skippered Telefonica is wallowing in last place some 19 miles from the French leader and has yet to even make it past the Cape of Good Hope, 100 miles south from Cape Town. Boat speeds at present vary between Groupama's 1.4 knots and Team Sanya's 0.6 knots.

At present the VO70s are caught in a windless hole between an area of high pressure to their northwest and a shallow depression centred off the south coast of South Africa. There doesn't appear to be much respite for the boats until briefly this afternoon...but this looks to be only temporary and the boats may well be in for another frustrating night.

Last night Abu Dhabi skipper Ian Walker commented: “We made a great exit from Table Bay and built a nice lead before getting swallowed up by the fleet as we sat in no wind further up the coast. We managed to get through that in second place but then got caught out too near the shore and we have paid a huge price. We have only managed to sail 0.6 nautical miles in the last two hours and have been sitting bobbing up and down looking at the notorious Cape of Good Hope for about 10 hours.”

Walker reckons that they might be in for another 48 hours of windless conditions. “All our weather strategy is in pieces now as the fleet has failed to catch the low pressure as planned and I suspect we will all sit waiting for a new Westerly wind to pick us up in the next day or two."

Unlike leg 2 to Kochi, India three years ago, this time there is no scoring gate to head to which is what enticed the boats to dive down into the Southern Ocean. So it seems likely that unless someone decides to pull a flier to get out of the light winds, they will remain much closer to the South African coast as they head east. However given what happened to Groupama on the last leg, one suspects the fleet won't be in the mood for fliers. 

Looking ahead once out into the Indian Ocean, the boats will have to respect the 'East African Exclusion Zone', basically anything north and west of the solid black line in the chartlet below. This will force the boats south of Madagascar and east of Mauritius as they head to port 'Unknown' where they must arrive no later than Christmas Day if they are to make the ship that will be steaming north to Gulf on Boxing Day.


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