Volvo Ocean Race: Still thundering south

Doldrums easing south means prolonged big mileage in the Volvo Ocean Race

Thursday March 1st 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

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

Positions at 0717 UTC:

Pos Boat Skipper Lat Lon Av spd Crs 24 hr DTF DTL
1 Groupama Franck Cammas 06 24.570n 159 06.320e 20 158 484.6 2748  
2 Puma Ken Read 07 48.580n 158 48.570e 19.6 157 483.3 2833.3 85.3
3 Telefonica Iker Martinez 06 40.050n 155 14.320e 19.7 148 482.5 2842.4 94.4
4 Abu Dhabi Ian Walker 07 47.370n 157 33.400e 20.6 162 477.1 2856.2 108.2
5 Camper Chris Nicholson 07 15.930n 155 56.320e 19.6 157 491.2 2860.3 112.3
6 Sanya Mike Sanderson 08 04.170n 155 22.670e 16.8 158 462.2 2917.4 169.4

The VO70s continue to make hay in the northeasterly trades, still making 20 knots average speed with Groupama continuing to resolutely hold first place with a similar 85 mile margin over second placed Puma as she held yesterday. The most significant change over the last 24 hours has been Camper, who's performance was looking so strong on this leg, dropping back to fifth place, overtaken by Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, the Kiwi crewed boat hampered by the destruction of their J2 yesterday.

As the boats sail south, so the wind has been veering slight and for Groupama at present it is into the ENE, forcing the easterly boats to sail a hotter course. As French crewman Thomas Coville described it: "In a squall this morning, I think I have never taken so much water full in my face. We had been a bit slower than yesterday, but at a tighter angle -then the wind went up to 28 knots..."

Finally the weather Gods seem to be on the side of the Volvo boats as the next hurdle of the race course - the Doldrums - seems to be edging south and all but disappearing in the short term. At present the boats look set to see the wind veer from the ENE into the ESE at around 4°N, the circulation maintained momentarily thanks to an area of high pressure centred to the north of New Zealand. All being well they could scoot through before the Doldrums reforms just north of the equator on Saturday.

However the good news seems set only to be shortlived as by Monday the Doldrums will have set up south of the Equator too making for a horrifically slow ride down to Vanuatu (it is still unclear whether they will leave this island group to port or starboard) and then either upwind or close reaching according to position of the high just north of New Zealand.

Hamish Hooper reports from Camper:  It was one year ago today that this team assembled at 6am in the gym at the Team New Zealand base in Auckland.

It is quite unreal to think of where things have come from that day, the boat was still under construction at Cookson’s, we weren’t a team then, just a bunch of guys doing the same thing. Now 365 days on we are on our boat charging at 20+ knots back toward that very point with some 3000 miles to go, but very much a team in the true sense of the word, which for days like we have had for the past few it counts for so much.

There are still another 4.5 months to go and half of the planet to finish sailing around in this race before we will have a true measure of the success of what we are doing.

For now being 5TH in the pack isn’t entirely successful, we have a long way to go to catch Groupama who are now nearly 100 miles ahead of us. For now they are gone, our sights are firmly set on clawing back the miles on PUMA and Telefónica, at last sked they were both within 18 miles, which annoyingly is about what we lost when we had to slow the boat up for a period yesterday with our J2 issues.

But these are the pitfalls of ocean racing. Knowing how hard it is to claw back miles bit by bit, it hurts to give away such easy miles to our competitors. I am sure they were more than happy to accept those miles with open arms and huge gratitude. We will be ready to accept them back if they give us a slight chance to return the favour. The next sked came in and we were the fastest boat, slight miles gain- it’s been a while but a valuable step in the right direction!

Another cause for celebration- well maybe more accurately a solid handshake is that today is Chuny’s birthday. 42. He could get in another couple of Volvo Races before he is Trae’e age.

As always he has had me laughing today in his cheekiest possible way. For his own amusement Chuny has been using Animal’s rope tail bag as very convenient rubbish bag, which I find hilarious to see the fulfilment it gives him each time he drops a new piece of trash into it. Something so simple can bring so much pleasure on this boat. At least it takes your mind off the wet damp, saturated and smelly stench inside this boat

We are sailing in between the Caroline and the Marshal Islands right about now. Of which there is one less Marshall Islands atoll than there was in 1954 when the Americans tested a hydrogen bomb believed to be the biggest ever man made explosion. It sounds like the scientists got a little excited with their quantities as it was so powerful it overwhelmed the measuring instruments and vaporised an entire atoll. The mushroom cloud was 100 miles wide… I am thinking there could be a few three eyed fish in the waters around here.

Quiz Question: “What was the name of the atoll in the in The Marshall Islands that the Americans nuked?”

Mike piped up today to tell me what his favourite thing about the greatest city in the world is: The Viaduct Harbour, which is where he lived when we were based in New Zealand. I assured him that when we arrive at the end of this leg, it will be better than he could ever imagine.

“Unfortunately we have been overtaken on both sides. We did some sail damage yesterday, which cost us a lot of miles. That has been repaired but unfortunately we are just lacking that little bit of speed at this angle compared to the other boats. Extremely frustrating but hopefully there will be some passing opportunities further down the line.”

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