Volvo Ocean Race: Slow turn south

Puma's extreme buffalo girls move pays off

Monday February 27th 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 1017 UTC:

Pos Boat Skipper Lat Lon Spd Crs DTF DTL
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.


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