Upwind again in the South China Sea

Conditions set to change later today as the Volvo Ocean Race fleet approaches the Luzon Strait

Tuesday February 21st 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

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

Positions at 0700 UTC:

Pos Boat Skipper Lat Lon Spd Crs DTF DTL
1 Camper Chris Nicholson 20 03.820n 114 37.450e 10.8 55 4929  
2 Groupama Franck Cammas 20 12.270n 114 35.620e 11.4 55 4932.3 3.3
3 Telefonica Iker Martinez 20 24.980n 114 31.700e 12.5 53 4938.6 9.6
4 Sanya Mike Sanderson 19 47.250n 114 23.020e 11.9 51 4939.8 10.8
5 Abu Dhabi Ian Walker 20 09.100n 114 26.570e 11.2 54 4940 11
6 Puma Ken Read 20 23.830n 114 03.700e 10.5 51 4964 35

The VO70s continue to slog their way upwind in the South China Sea. Late yesterday morning the whole fleet tacked northwest and since then they have remained on starboard tack converging with the Chinese coastline and look set to hold this course until such time as they can tack to clear the north coast of the Philippine island of Luzon. With the wind in the east this is at present directly upwind.

While the wind is 15-20 knots, the sea state remains turbulent from the set left over by the monsoon that caused the leg 4 start to be delayed combined with a lumpy sea bottom.

Groupama led for most of yesterday until around 2115 UTC last night when Camper edged ahead. The Kiwi crewed boat seems to have been sailing ever so slightly higher than her rivals and as a result at the latest sched she has pulled out to 3.3 miles ahead of the French VO70 - important in what is a vital leg for the maroon boat into their Emirates Team New Zealand homeport.

In terms of positioning Telefonica remain to the north, while Sanya are still in the south with Puma bringing up the rear after they were leave Sanya in Sunday night's staggered start.

Crew described the conditions: “This is like sailing in a washing machine without the soap suds unfortunately,” said Tony Rae, from on board Camper. “A mix of current, wind and the fact we are right on top of where the ocean floor goes from 600 metres to only 200 metres, all combined to make a pretty messy confused ride. Not what I would call smooth sailing.”

Puma's MCM Amory Ross reported: “Waves seem to come from all directions and there’s nothing to do but make sure you’re hanging on because you never see half of them. A Volvo Open 70 is designed to sail downwind, to reach at high speeds; shaped like a surfboard, our “flat-bottomed girl” aches with each flight and cries with each crash. As the breeze lightens further there’s talk of canting the keel to leeward to induce heel and help avoid the belly flops that make us cringe.”

At the latest sched Camper has around 430 miles to go before she rounds the north coast of Luzon. Before then the tactical teams on board each boat must make the call on when to tack. Unfortunately the weather over the Strait of Luzon is evolving and the European model forecast is showing a bubble of high pressure developing over this area later today. So a lumpy left-over sea and little to no wind. Nice. However the good news is that in the early hours of tomorrow morning the wind is set to fill in from the west bringing some relief from the perpetual upwind conditions. 

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