Drag race north

Groupama takes the lead and is looking good as the Volvo Ocean Race boats head up the Indian Ocean

Tuesday December 20th 2011, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

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

At the latest sched as the Volvo Ocean Race boats drag race north into warmer waters, four boats are pretty much neck and neck as they soar up the Indian Ocean. In the west Camper is around 10 miles astern of Telefonica. Puma is around 95 miles off to starboard and Groupama, still holding the most easterly berth, is a further 114 miles beyond. Abu Dhabi is on a track between Telefonica/Camper and Puma, but 95 miles astern of them. However in terms of distance to the finish....wherever that might be...Groupama has nosed ahead at the latest sched. The official numbers have the French VO70 5.8 miles in front of Telefonica and another mile in front of Puma - ie very close considering their lateral separation. The reason for Groupama's surge ahead is that while there might be a little more pressure in the west, her easterly berth means that the wind is slightly more backed - beam reaching, rather than close reaching, as a result her boat speed at the latest sched is 20 knots whereas for her two other Juan K-designed sisterships, Puma and Telefonica, it is 15-16. 

Groupama has covered around 445 miles in the last 24 hours and from here the next 48 hours look set to be fairly similar - continuing NNE with the wind very slowly veering into the ESE, freeing them further. Come Thursday, we suspect Groupama will have pulled out a reasonable lead, but this looks set to be a slow day as they encounter the Doldrums at around 10°S.

Yesterday Abu Dhabi navigator Jules Salter said: "We are not going to give up here – we are going to keep on trying. There’s a long way to go still but we have quite a deficit to make up. We are heading quite fast towards the Doldrums at about 10 degrees south so from here on in we will be trying work out where the best point to enter them is for a quick passage through.

“Basically the weather seems to propagate from east to west across the Doldrums like an undulating wave of clouds with little rivers of wind through. We will be monitoring the satellite picture and GRIB files and the charts we can get for that area just to see if there is any sign of a good place to enter.

“We will be watching the progress of the boats ahead of us and their wind speeds when they enter. If they get caught out by some clouds then we might be able to avoid them and gain some miles back.

“It’s always good to know the how and why about a situation so if we see a boat going fast or slow we will try to pin the logic together to give us a sense of what’s going on.

“We are on the attack right now because we are in last place and we don’t have too much to lose. We can afford to be a little more creative.

“In the Doldrums there is a lot of thought and process go one but there is also a massive chunk of luck.

“Fingers crossed, pin your ears back and stick the boat in there somewhere can be more effective than over thinking it.”

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