Sanya takes another roll of the dice

Sanya and Groupama hold first and second this morning in the Volvo Ocean Race

Sunday December 18th 2011, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

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

Immediately following our update yesterday morning, so Franck Cammas' Groupama became not the only boat to be attempting a risky flier on leg two of the Volvo Ocean Race. Mid-morning the Mike Sanderson-skippered Sanya, turned her bow northwest (ie 120° from her previous easterly course) and spent the rest of the afternoon attempting to extricate herself from the light winds to the west of the trough. Finally last night at around 1930 UTC, having dropped from third place to sixth, she turned her bow NNE. By virtue of pointing much closer to the mark and sailing faster as the four remaining boats ploughed on to the east, so by the early hours of this morning, Sanya, the only old generation boat in the fleet, had pulled into first place. Of course people are harking back to the last race on the long leg from China to Brazil when Ericsson 3 pulled off a similar stunt that caused them to win the leg - the common factor is that Ericsson 3 navigator Akdel Magdahl now has this role on Sanderson's VO70.

“We’ve been seeing this option for so long and we think it’s still there. There are some risks – mainly for the first 24 hours,” said Magdahl yesterday. “Of course it feels weird to turn around and that’s pretty much what we are doing now. We are heading towards a low pressure off Madagascar, hopefully we’ll get some good breeze up there and we will be on the other side of that low. This is what we believe in.”

At the 1003 sched this morning Sanya is into the lead, 88 miles ahead of the eastbound group, while Groupama's flier is also paying. At around 1300 UTC yesterday she tacked northeast and this morning is up to second place (albeit only a nose ahead of the eastbound group) from DFL yesterday, sailing in northerly breeze as she attempts to get around the top of the high to her east. Her crew is waiting for the wind to veer east as she progressed through the northwesterly quadrant of the high, at which point she will tack north.

For the easterly group, it looks like they may finally get through the trough over the course of today. However the going seems set to be slow for both them and in particular for Groupama for the rest of today as the high to their east shifts slightly north. Whether Groupama can stay ahead of the eastbound group depends on how long it takes them to extricate them from the trough.

Meanwhile at the latest sched Sanya was making 17.8 knots reaching on starboard into the strong easterlies to the south of the substantial but relatively shallow depression centred over Madagascar and seems set to continue making big miles. However this course of action will see them continue to extend their lead over the next 24-48 hours but it is hard to see where they will go after this. It seems likely that at some point they are going to find themselves upwind for a prolonged period, which won't be fast.

“It’s quite a risky move, but if it comes off right they will probably end up two or three hundred miles ahead,” comments Abu Dhabi navigator Jules Salter on Sanya's move. But, according to Salter, there could be a big problem if the depression forms too close to the coast for Team Sanya to slip through. “All they will get is the strongest headwinds in the dangerous part of the tropical storm,” he warns.

Andres Soriano, MCM on Team Sanya writes this morning: 

After graduating from university, I was given a card, which read,

“All know the way, but few actually walk it” – Bodhi dharma

That thought was certainly going through both the heads of Mike and Aksel as they looked at the latest position report, noticing that the whole fleet was still heading east, still heading in the back of this cold front which was still there in a big way, and still continuing to press on in seriously frustrating conditions.

For the last 48 hours, both Mike and Aksel lost hours of sleep trying to decide what would be the best route to take in the long run. The issue was that when the boats finally punched through the cold front and made in to the long awaited trade winds, it would be an out and out reach off. Here there was a chance, that we could hang on with the fleet, but there was also a great chance that we would see the newer boats stretch her legs, and leave us lagging behind.

By now you have all seen the tracker and thus already know the ultimate decision that was made. We decided to split from the fleet, take a northerly route in the hopes we might find more favorable conditions for the mighty SANYA LAN.

About an hour after we bore away and headed north, we noticed a boat in the distance, a black boat, with very distinctive black sails, it was Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing. “Clear across,” stated Dave Swete, which was followed by a few grins from the boys. We were in front of them by about a mile, but it was still a pretty surreal feeling to be out in the middle of nowhere, two boats in the same race, countless miles out to sea, and one be going in one direction and the other in the complete opposite. “It’s like as if we just rounded the bottom mark a few minutes ahead of them,” noted Mike. “I’m sure there are some puzzled people on that boat at the moment.”

Only time will tell you what the outcome will be, but for the moment onboard we may have split from the fleet but we are pressing on. Moral is fantastic, there isn’t a moment that goes by that there isn’t a joke told or a story rehashed. It’s quite cheerful actually; maybe it has something to do with being the Christmas Season! Anyway we hope that all of you at home are preparing for a wonderful Christmas!

Zai jian,


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