Volvo Ocean Race: Slow turn south
Positions at 1017 UTC:
|1||Groupama||Frank Cammas||24 52.730n||146 14.500e||17.8||115||4050.5|
|2||Camper||Chris Nicholson||24 29.780n||144 04.050e||18.2||116||4082||31.5|
|3||Puma||Ken Read||25 40.750n||146 25.080e||19.8||111||4090||39.5|
|4||Telefonica||Iker Martinez||24 23.670n||142 43.480e||16.2||112||4110.3||59.8|
|5||Sanya||Mike Sanderson||24 37.650n||143 05.420e||16.8||113||4113.4||62.9|
|6||Abu Dhabi||Ian Walker||25 21.730n||144 37.320e||17.6||108||4114.9||64.4|
The Volvo Ocean Race fleet continues to head east, when they should be heading south, as they have done since exiting the Luzon Strait last Wednesday night (UTC). Puma's gambit to sail north toward Japan before, on Friday night turning east, appears to have paid off. Once out into the open Pacific, to the north of her rivals, the American VO70 benefitted from stronger, more favourable breeze and as a result was constantly able to make better speed. This was particularly the case over the course of Saturday when Puma was regularly making 18-19 knots compared to the 12-13 of the southerly boats.
However it was not as if Puma's plan has gone un-noticed by the rest of the fleet and overnight on Friday night/Saturday morning there was a general move by the southerly group to converge with her, Telefonica and Abu Dhabi gybing north at around 2300 on Friday followed by Groupama and Camper at around 0200 GMT Saturday. This move north got the southerly boats into stronger breeze, but the significant moment came at around 0800 when Camper gybed back to the east, while Groupama continued northeast, finally gybing back mid-evening to the southeast of Puma. At this point Camper, still technically holding the lead, was making 8 knots compared to Groupama and Puma's 14-15.
Yesterday evening Groupama and Puma started to err south, still managing to hold the breeze, sailing 4 knots faster than Camper, and just before midnight, the French VO70 took over the lead with Puma up to third place having succeeded in pulling off one of the biggest 'buffalo girls' moves in ocean racing history. iIn the early hours of Saturday morning they were 282 miles off the lead.
It should be remembered that the Volvo boats are still at around 25°N and still have the Doldrums to cross en route to Auckland. However the ridge that has blocked their way south since the middle of last week is finally receeding east out of their way later today to be replaced by stronger ENEerly breeze tonight. This new breeze is filling in from the northwest, so it looks like Telefonica should feel its benefits first albeit not for long or to provide her with any signficant advantage. Fingers crossed, the boats could by this time tomorrow all be heading south at pace towards the mark.