Volvo Ocean Race: Solomon Islands cruise
Positions at 0701 UTC:
|1||Groupama||Franck Cammas||05 35.500s||162 27.630e||14.2||171||1992.64|
|2||Telefonica||Iker Martinez||05 45.970s||158 03.780e||15||180||2077.17||84.53|
|3||Puma||Ken Read||04 19.870s||161 40.280e||12.4||172||2079.28||86.64|
|4||Camper||Chris Nicholson||04 50.080s||158 14.600e||16.2||195||2124.13||131.49|
|5||Abu Dhabi||Ian Walker||03 43.130s||160 31.180e||11.4||176||2136.63||143.99|
|6||Sanya||Mike Sanderson||03 38.650s||158 06.270e||15.6||184||2193.16||200.52|
With all six VO70s now into the southern hemisphere, so over the last 24 hours the wind has been slowly veering south of east, heading the boats and generally pushing them slightly west. As a result the westerly boats, led by Telefonica, now have the significant obstruction of the Solomon Islands directly ahead of them. Historically the Solomon Islands were renowned when they were first discovered for headhunting and cannibalism...
Telefonica, Camper and, astern, Sanya look set to negotiate the passage between the islands of Choiseul and Santa Isabel (just over 100 miles ahead of Telefonica at the 0700 sched) before sailing up New Georgia Sound and then exiting the Solomon Islands. We hope the crews have some good charts because these islands are almost certainly reef strewn. While sailing through these exotic islands may be a 'something to tell the grandchildren' moment, it is certainly going to hamper the boats choosing this option as they will fall into the wind shadow of islands as they pass through them, in particular from the island of Guadalcanal, where Mount Popomaneseu is 2335m tall and, going east, is the highest peak in the Pacific until you reach the Andes...(see a map of the Solomon Islands here)
Meanwhile the other three boats, led as ever by Groupama, look set to leave the Solomon Islands to starboard.
Over the last 24 hours the boats have been making better progress than we imagined and as a result of this it now doesn't look like they are now going to get too badly caught in the giant area of high pressure as tomorrow afternoon (GMT) it descends over an area extending from the Solomon Islands all the way east to Fiji. If any of the boats is going to get held up in this it will be the backmarkers. The forecast indicates that the boats are going to get increasingly headed the further south they sail and as a result Groupama may have no choice but to sail to leeward of New Caledonia.
Yesterday Telefonica skipper Iker Martinez assessed the race: "Groupama in particular has done a great job and is sailing very well and is clearly in front, and that makes things very difficult for the rest of the fleet. Puma is also quite far ahead. We have to wait and see, but it'll be difficult for something to happen with the two boats at the front in just a couple of days. If we're honest, there are limited chances available to us now. Of course, we'll be doing everything we can, but if something big happened we might be able to win, but the lead the two boats at the front have got is very big, so it'd have to be something big... but as things stand today there isn't a great chance of us catching up with them.
"The forecasts are constantly changing, the weather's unstable and an opportunity could come up at any moment and we have to keep that at the forefront of our minds. Anything could happen when you least expect it. New Caledonia and the passage past the Solomon Islands might be the key moment, but I think that all of the boats are going to choose the same routing through, although we're going to see a fight for sure."