Rock hopping off South Africa

Camper takes first place, as speeds build in the Volvo Ocean Race with harsh conditions forecast tomorrow

Tuesday December 13th 2011, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

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

The last 24 hours have been somewhat stop-start-stop for the full compliment of VO70s racing on leg two of the Volvo Ocean Race. Having been becalmed over the first night, so at around 1000 UTC the breeze filled in across the fleet getting around Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of South Africa. By late yesterday afternoon the frontrunners Groupama and Camper were sailing into more breeze with boat speeds up to a promising 17 knots. Unfortunately this petered out around 1900 when there was a split, the lead trio staying offshore as the backmarkers headed inshore, finding slightly more pressure in the process. By midnight leader, Franck Cammas' Groupama and the Chris Nicholson-skippered Camper was engaged in their own personal match race and by 0342 UTC this morning, the Kiwi crewed VO70 had edged ahead as all six boats were heading northeast, inshore once again. This must have come as some satisfaction for the Camper crew following Groupama's protesting of them in Cape Town, once again claiming the Kiwi boat's forestay as being illegal.

After a quiet early morning, the boats trickling along at 5 knots, so the wind has picked up again this morning, the boats currently up to 10-11 knots as they sail on starboard into a building southeasterly. The forecast is looking light for the rest of today and there doesn't look like being much respite until the wind veers into the southwest tonight. Tomorrow the boats should be making hay with the southwesterly building over the course of tomorrow morning. 

However off this coast is the notorious Agulhas Current, which can flow up to 3-4 knots in a westerly direction (ie oppose to them) and with a 25 knot westerly wind forecast for tomorrow, the sea state is likely to be horrific.

At present, on board the leader, Camper, MCM Hamish Hooper reports that there is a quiet air of concentration as the crew pushes the boat in conditions to which she is well suited. They are moving things around for perfect boat trim, lots of tiptoeing and almost no casual talking as the crew focus on making the boat go fast and retaining their slim lead.




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