No way south

Puma off on a flier again on the Volvo Ocean Race

Friday February 24th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

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

Positions at 1001 UTC:

Pos Boat Skipper Lat Lon Spd Crs DTF DTL
1 Camper Chris Nicholson 24 02.780n 128 23.430e 12.8 88 4520.6  
2 Groupama Franck Cammas 24 05.800n 128 14.350e 13.5 86 4528.1 7.5
3 Sanya Mike Sanderson 23 40.430n 127 21.520e 11.8 110 4538.1 17.5
4 Abu Dhabi Ian Walker 24 22.930n 127 47.320e 13.5 79 4556.8 36.2
5 Telefonica Iker Martinez 24 43.670n 127 15.550e 9.9 83 4591 70.4
6 Puma Ken Read 26 30.170n 125 06.300e 12.9 38 4747 226.4

In some 23 years of covering the Volvo Ocean Race/Whitbread this is turning into one of the most bizarre legs we've ever covered. Auckland lies on a course southeast. Yet the majority of boats are continuing to head ENE and as for Puma...following their unsuccessful flier on leg 3, they are off again and are now 'doing their own thing' some 231 miles northeast of race leader Camper, with an island group (running between Taiwan and Japan) between them and the rest of the fleet.

Que passa?

Weatherwise the boats to the bulk of the fleet appear to be through the front/trough mentioned yesterday, associated with a substantial depression centred to the east of Japan, and this has pushed the giant area of high pressure to the southeast of it further out into the Pacific. At present there is a substantial ridge extending out from the west side of the high at around 20°S and this is preventing the boats from heading south. But we've just spent 30 minutes looking at what lies in store and there doesn't appear to be much agreement between the models in terms of when it might become safe to start heading south. Tomorrow the ridge retracts east according to the GFS model and if this comes to pass it could provide an opportunity, although the wind is once again set to go soft as it backs into the south the further south they sail.

Below is the wind satellite radar image for the area where the boats are currently, showing the wind coming from pretty much every corner...

 

One wonders what might have happened if Telefonica had stuck to their guns and continued south once they were through the Luzon Strait two days ago.

As for Puma - we can't see how it is going to come good for them. Yes, they are sailing in the best wind at present, but on a course of 038° while Auckland is on 130°. The hope is that the front they are to the west of moves east and they can use the opportunity to dart between the Japanese islands that lie between them and the rest of the fleet. Frankly this looks like a long shot.

According to Hamish Hooper on board Camper: "The other daily frustration so far is that this leg just doesn’t seem to be getting any easier, nor is it getting any shorter. Will our trusty navigator estimates at this stage we won’t reach the equator until the 2nd or 3rd of March, which means to arrive on the 9th we will have to average 400 miles per day. A more likely scenario is we arrive on the 11th or 12th, five days before the in-port race and we leave again to sail another 6000 odd miles to Brazil. With this being the case, I’m beginning to think my analogy of being like a block of cheese would be more accurate as a block of Camembert being grated on a cheese grater, you just end up a mess and no good to anyone."

Nick Dana reports from Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing

Day 6 now and we’re still plugging off into the east. Sanya is still close at our heels while Groupama and Camper are just above our line and a bit further east. The breeze is becoming more and more patchy as the day gets on. A little rain mixed with some thunder storms to the north have made for some interesting and very ominous looking cloud lines. Yet none of them seem to hold the breeze strength or direction that we are looking for at the moment. Puma seems to still be climbing north in hopes to link in with consistent trade winds first and eventually begin the long journey southward with a full head of steam.

It’s Ian’s birthday tomorrow and we have decided that if the conditions stayed relaxed a bit longer today we should have time to make a piñata. Something that Rob and I have talked about making for a long time, but never get the time to sit around like 12 year olds and build. Hopefully today is the day though. Jules thinks we’re idiots, but we know that piñata parties are always the best parties. If for some reason it doesn’t happen with Ian’s birthday we still have Wade’s 31st coming up in a few days.

As far as the mood goes on board everyone is pretty happy (as per the need for piñatas). We get a little frustrated sometimes that we’re five days into the race and still headed east, but that’s because we have nothing else to look at besides charts. Not to mention we’re closer to Hawaii now then New Zealand, and almost have a better weather pattern to get Honolulu before we would Auckland. In fact, we ran a route last night that would get us to Brazil and would only take us 6 days longer than it would to get to NZ. In short, we need to turn south soon to keep things fresh.

 

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