Puma first, Telefonica last

Upwind on port tack for the Volvo Ocean Race boats

Monday January 23rd 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

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

Positions at 0702:

Pos Boat Skipper Lat Lon Spd Crs DT mark DTL
1 Puma Ken Read 03 22.980n 077 48.170e 11.9 91 1058.87  
2 Camper Chris Nicholson 03 23.370n 077 46.250e 12 91 1060.7 1.83
3 Groupama Franck Cammas 03 22.570n 077 46.000e 11.6 89 1061.07 2.2
4 Abu Dhabi Ian Walker 03 22.000n 077 40.870e 11.1 91 1066.22 7.35
5 Sanya Mike Sanderson 03 16.020n 077 40.870e 8.3 94 1067.15 8.28
6 Telefonica Iker Martinez 03 26.670n 077 38.620e 9.8 86 1067.73 8.86

Since departing the now not secret Volvo Ocean Race Indian Ocean safehaven port of Male in the Maldives yesterday morning, so the six VO70s - good to have them all back on the race course - continue to head east. They are ducking south of the direct route to the northern tip of Sumatra (just over 1000 miles away) as with the wind in the northwest they have been closehauled on port tack. Over the course of this morning the 10-15 knot wind has slightly backed, hence why the boats have all turned their bows a little to port.

However already we are seeing a difference in the positions of the boat. Race leader Telefónica is currently bringing up the rear after tey lost some valuable miles yesterday when a fitting on their code zero failed, leaving the sail flogging and threatening to self-destruct. The crew has assessed the damage and is now hard at work on repairs.

“To fix the sail was very easy - the worst bit was getting the sail down below," reported Telefonica's Jordi Calafat this morning. "It’s one of the heaviest and biggest sails. Normally we keep it on the windward side, but we had to take it down below. The damage was to one of the corners of the sail so we stitched it by hand. We put a new plate in and off we go.

“I think the repair will hold, fingers crossed it won’t be a problem. Everything else is fine, and we’re back at full speed. At the moment we’re overtaking Abu Dhabi – it’s all good.

"Right now we are sailing with a full main and J1. We have 13 knots of wind, a true wind angle of 80 degrees, and we’re doing 15 knots of boat speed. It’s very gusty. Overnight we had very good conditions for sleep so everyone is rested.”

However although they are behind they have gained weather guage on the rest of the fleet. Meanwhile, presumably trying to nose ahead Mike Sanderson's team on Sanya is furthest south, 10.8 miles away from Telefonica on the water. Meanwhile in between the Ken Read-skippered Puma has nosed ahead of Camper and Groupama to take first place.

"Day 1 will be telling on this leg," Ken Read reported yesterday. "Everyone is spread out, and there appears to be very little speed difference between the fleet at this point. We got to the left of the group early and that seems to have paid a bit, but only by a tiny amount. Seeing what we see right now, this race will restart about 10 times in the Malacca Straits – a notoriously fickle place to sail. In fact, during the last Volvo four of us finished about 4 minutes from each other after several "restarts" going down the Straits. But, that finished in Singapore and this time we have another obstacle and that is the South China Sea with all the breeze and waves it can throw at you. So, things look good now but it is early days. There is a lot to come our way on this leg that is for sure."

In terms of the weather ahead the wind is set to remain in the northeast, continuing to back slightly over the course of the next 24 hours but will build by around 5 knots tonight as the boats pass to the south of Sri Lanka. Generally there will be more breeze on the north side of the course (where Telefonica is heading). Over the course of tomorrow night the wind is forecast to back into the north and drop as the high currently over Sumatra eases west. Unfortunately the boats look set to have a very light end of the week as they attempt to reach Malacca Strait.

Andrew Cape, navigator on Telefonica summarised the leg, dividing it into four parts.

1) 1,300 nm to Indonesia. Light/med upwind-tight reach with squalls and current against. Fastest boat wins.

2) 600 nm Malacca Strait, wind goes light in transition from NE to NW. Many obstacles such as shipping, fishing boats and nets, islands, shallows, bandits...

3) 50 nm Singapore Straight. Biggest problem is danger from huge volume of shipping and has strong currents and bandits.

4) 1,100 nm China Sea to Sanya Finish. Upwind in NW to NE wind that could get strong of Vietnam. When to tack? Strong adverse currents of Vietnam coast.

In short, a leg of misery.

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