Groupama off on another flier

As the northerly group in the Volvo Ocean Race are still knocking their head against the trough

Saturday December 17th 2011, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

Chart above courtesy of Expedition/Tasman Bay Navigation Systems and high res GRIB from PredictWind

They're off again. Having converged with the fleet night before last, Franck Cammas' Groupama 4 has resumed her flier to the south and it is not entirely clear what is the cunning plan is of navigator ex-ORMA 60 skipper Jean-Luc Nelias, all-rounder Thomas Coville and Solitaire du Figaro winner Charles Caudrelier, who form the afterguard and brains-trust of the French VO70.

For the boats to the north Groundhog Day continues. They still aren't through the trough/occluded front and with a shallow depression forming to their north of Madagascar with headwinds to the south of it, so the northerly boats have converged south over the last 24 hours. As a result Camper, Puma and Sanya are currently all within in sight of each other with Puma now a nose ahead in the race east. These boats look like they are into the trough as Camper and Puma's speeds are currently down to 5-6 knots. Meanwhile Abu Dhabi Ocean Race (nominally in the lead) is 29 miles northwest of Camper and Telefonica is 48 miles WNW of the Kiwi-crewed boat. The plan for these boats - as it has been for the last three days - is to break through the damned trough/front into the northerlies and then tack north once the wind starts to build and veer into the east.

Meanwhile some 215 miles to the southeast of Camper and Puma, Groupama appears to be through the trough/front as a small localised depression spins up to their south. They are making the best speed -more than 16 knots at the latest sched. But where are they going?

The forecast for 24 hours hence has the two areas of high pressure either side of Groupama's mini-depression merging to the south of this, the low shifting slightly north, however presumably what the brain's trust is aiming for is the situation on Monday morning where the high has become the dominant met feature in this zone and by this time the French VO70 may have managed to break into the favourable southerlies to the east of this and will be making fast progress north.

So another flier - and one of major proportions. But will this one work?

From on board Sanya, MCM Andres Sorriano writes:

A very wise man and one of my favorite artists, Bob Marley once said, “some people feel the rain, others simply get wet,” I believe we are certainly ‘feeling’ the rain onboard Team Sanya. Although it has not been the fastest sailing this morning, it has been an interesting and wet 48 hours of sailing.

“I never expected to be in the same weather system five days after leaving Cape Town,” said a very wet watch captain, Richard Mason. “We just keep sailing in to the back of the front, it rains and the wind shuts down, and it then gets ahead of us, so we speed back up, but it is not long before we catch up to it again.”

Our Navigator Aksel Magdahl has said that, “the boat that makes it through the ridge first has a good shot of gaining largely on the rest of the fleet. But I don’t know who will get through first, it’s anyone’s guess.”

Aksel confessed to being asked by a family member, as to why we weren’t following the ‘road,’ referring to the red rhumb line on the tracker, and since I can only imagine she’s not the only one thinking that same thing, I thought Id try to explain best I can.

This cold front has created a series of low-pressure systems that are making for very confused seas and an unstable breeze. One minute we are sitting still and barley moving and then next are hit with a puff of 20 knots. The idea of sailing in this direction is based on trying to get around or through this system at its thinnest point. “This is usually like a highway, with steady downwind sailing for days, but this front has changed everything,” explains Aksel.

So for now, all we can do is push forward, ‘feel the rain’ embrace it and press on…
Zai jian,


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