Volvo Ocean Race: Groupama into the southern hemisphere

Volvo fleet due to encounter the Doldrums on Sunday

Friday March 2nd 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 Spd Crs 24hrs DTF DTL
1 Groupama Franck Cammas 00 16.920s 161 27.880e 13.3 168 403 2345  
2 Puma Ken Read 01 00.570n 161 05.380e 14.2 166 424.9 2408.1 63.1
3 Abu Dhabi Ian Walker 00 59.300n 159 54.280e 15.7 163 402.5 2439.5 94.5
4 Telefonica Iker Martinez 00 29.020n 157 54.480e 14.2 155 413.2 2442.8 97.8
5 Camper Chris Nicholson 01 01.630n 158 28.170e 14.9 165 399.2 2460.8 115.8
6 Sanya Mike Sanderson 01 57.250n 158 08.570e 14.3 159 395.9 2521.1 176.1

Between the latest scheds Groupama has crossed the Equator and is the first boat to have passed back into the Southern hemisphere for the first time since leg 2. The further south the boats head so the more they drop out of the strong northeasterly trade winds conditions they have been enjoying for most of this week and as a result there has been compress in the fleet with the French V070's lead over Puma down from 85 miles yesterday to 63 this morning, with the bigger riser being the Ian Walker-skippered Abu Dhabi Ocean Race which yesterday morning overhauled Camper and in the early hours of this morning passed Telefonica in terms of DTF to move up to third place.

So small changes in course are taking place across the fleet, now with around 200 miles of east-west separation between Puma/Groupama in the east and Telefonica in the west and at present the latter are slightly more headed. However the good news is that, as forecast, the boats have yet to meet the Doldrums and right now there appears to be good pressure south of the Equator with the wind continuing to veer slowly into the ESE. Unfortunately, of course, this is not going to last and come Sunday the boats look set to be nailed as they attempt to get down to Vanuatu (still around 800 miles from Groupama) as a giant zone of no wind descends on the race course. And sadly this doesn't appear to be the modest Doldrums of the Atlantic but a huge area spanning the equator down to around 15°S. However once the boats do get south of this, the pressure is forecast to kick in thanks to circulation around the high located over New Zealand, and this will certainly advantage the first to this new breeze.

Yesterday from on board Telefonica skipper Iker Martinez reported: “We like the conditions we are getting right now a lot and once again, the boat is helping us to push forward. We are all putting in the extra effort to make the boat really run but really there are a few days still to go before some different tactical options are on offer again. I hope that we make a better job of the finish than we did with the start.

“At this point on the leg we are not where we'd like to be, but the first week was pretty tough on us and we dropped too many miles. Now we are sailing fast and towards our destination, but as always when you're behind, the days fly by and you'd like them to last a bit longer to make more of them. We are third in the rankings, but we've got to be realistic because although Abu Dhabi and Camper might be further away from the finish, they have better angles, so right now really we'd be in fifth place."

Pepe Ribes added: “There's sure to be some compression in the Doldrums, but whoever gets out of there first will be able to push away, so... We're looking at an area to get through the lulls where in theory we may not have to stop for long. The wind will drop to ten knots but we won't be getting zero breeze”.



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