Volvo Ocean Race: Big extension for Groupama

French VO70 currently passing New Caledonia

Tuesday March 6th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

Volvo Ocean Race charts courtesy of Expedition/Tasman Bay Navigation Systems and GRIB (European model) from PredictWind

Positions at 0702 UTC:

Pos Boat Skipper Lat Lon Spd Crs DTF DTL
1 Groupama Franck Cammas 22 00.920s 162 18.400e 13.9 176 1122.2  
2 Puma Ken Read 20 11.680s 162 08.700e 16.1 175 1217.1 94.9
3 Telefonica Iker Martinez 19 54.470s 160 38.130e 14.2 171 1279.6 157.4
4 Camper Chris Nicholson 19 16.550s 159 47.630e 13.5 169 1338.2 216
5 Abu Dhabi Ian Walker 17 20.150s 161 49.430e 14.3 188 1372.5 250.3
6 Sanya Mike Sanderson 16 55.030s 158 34.670e 11.2 173 1493.7 371.5

Well it looks like the GRIB files were right and the rich have been getting richer over the last 24 hours in the Volvo Ocean Race. Since yesterday morning Groupama has pulled on to a due south heading and, currently 125 miles from the west coast of New Caledonia, she has extended her lead over second placed Puma from 63 miles to 95 at the latest sched. In fact at the previous sched the French VO70 was just over 100 miles in front of her American rival.

In terms of wind, at present Groupama has 18 knots from 118°, while the mid-fleet has 13-14 knots and, bringing up the rear, poor Sanya is relatively wallowing with just 8 knots. She has lost 138 miles in the last 24 hours, while Abu Dhabi Ocean Race has dropped back 92 miles to Groupama.

For Groupama the Bay of Islands to the north of New Zealand is still just over 1000 miles away on a bearing of 133°. So at some point all the boats have to get east. Yesterday afternoon the westerly boats put in a short hitch east, but a more substantial move east needs to be made to reach Auckland - the question remains as to when?

Not very helpful to the progress of the boats towards Auckland is that a depression is developing to the north of New Zealand. Movement of this will be critical and at present it looks as through Groupama may be able to get past the west side of the high albeit into southeast headwinds, while come Thursday the depression seems to dissolve, leaving an area of light winds behind it which seem set to affect the rest of the fleet. So if this forecast holds true we suspect that Groupama will extend her lead into Auckland substantially.

Hamish Hooper reports from Camper:

It was a long tough night onboard Camper negotiating a transition zone of light shifty winds - a pot hole in the road which had potential to hurt us a lot.

The guys were up most of the night tacking their way through trying to keep rolling at a half decent speed. Negotiations went well until the last hour or so, when they fell apart and we were slowed for long enough that the boats ahead of us cruelly took back all of the miles we had worked so hard to take off them during the day.

Another sucker punch the guys seem to take with such steely resolve and determination and carry on hard at it as they were.

It’s looking like the next couple of days will be a bit la-de-da, with not too much happening with the weather. One or two of the models are predicting a bit of a park up and compression in the fleet off the top of New Zealand, which is a good thing for us getting back in touch with the leaders, but not such a good thing for actually reaching the finish line in Auckland. Time will tell how the end of this leg plays out because right now, no one can be certain.

We are a couple of hundred miles away from the waters of New Caledonia, a small piece of France in the South Pacific. You have to ask how the French came to own a prime piece of land some 20,000 kilometres from metropolitan France? I am guessing it had something to do with that funny little Frenchman Napoleon and I am pretty certain they didn’t have to fight for it, as we all know the French don’t have the most distinguished military history…

Maybe Groupama will not be able to resist the urge of a fresh baguette and a few snails on their way past and give up some of their lead… Unlikely…

More seriously though we are hoping New Caledonia’s massive wind shadow will cause the leading boats further to the east of us a few headaches that we can avoid by being that much further away. All we need is a few hours or a few knots less boat speed from them and the miles will peel away in our favour.

Quiz question: “Who was the Captain of the first European Ship to sight New Caledonia in 1774?”

The highlight of the day for the guys on deck was a stunning aerobatic show put on by a threesome of stunning gannets who joined us for several hours. Weaving in and out of the rigging, darting inches across the bow, then veering off to catch airborne flying fish in their beaks. The birds were obviously not content with finishing their performance without a bang, so scored a direct hit showering Stu, Nico and Adam with a processed flying fish by product. Ha!

Oh well more good luck we are hoping, time and miles are growing scarcer, so luck we may need.

“I sure hope that the old wives tale of good luck coming to those who have been pooed on by birds is true, because we have been sprayed all day by some cheeky gannets. I was the victim of a direct hit while driving, so now we wait for the good fortune while I change my shir t- except I don’t have a clean shirt to change into.” STU BANNATYNE

Nick Dana reports from Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing: 

So far it has been a fairly eventful day. In the early hours of the morning a few of us began smelling something burning.

The immediate response is usually to look at all of your electrical distribution panels and flip everything off. And so we did – the nav station, media station and forward panels were all shut off in a matter of seconds.

With this cut we lost all lights as well, and were left scrambling to find our personal torches. We quickly tracked down the smell to the main engine bay. It turned out that a bit of the plastic switch covers for one of our battery bank terminals was melting. Sifi removed the switch, traced the issue, and off we went again. Crisis averted.

Next, we ran into the back of a huge ominous looking cloud ridge. We weren’t sure whether to reduce sail area or reduce clothing to get ready for our first rain shower of the leg. Luckily it was the latter and we finally broke out the soap. It was the usual scrum underneath the end of the boom where the most water collects and falls.

Everyone ran on deck apart from one ‘soap dodger’ that shall remain nameless. So while Rob sat below, we all spun out in the cockpit fighting over the bottle of soap and relishing in our new scent. Our salt rash was already feeling infinitely better. No less then 20 minutes later though, the breeze was up and we were getting whacked with big salty waves again. So is life aboard a Volvo 70.

Lastly, a few of us had a good argument about the food situation on board. In particular, the growing issue of UFM (unauthorised food movement). As the leg stretches on, the pack mentality begins to weaken, and we enter what I like to call the ‘Id’ stage of the leg. Which essentially means every man for himself with regards to food.

Example: If there is one sheet of chocolate left, hide it for later and smash it yourself. It’s your junk food hunger vs. their junk food hunger etc etc… This mentality will only continue to worsen unless voices are raised and names named – it’s all got to come out at once.

And so it did. Food was thrown and shouting rang out. But we are all better for it now. Or at least we know that others have been watching us steal food from the day bag and have to find new tricks.

Pretty boring on board to say the least…

Andres Soriano reports from Sanya:

It’s been tough all around onboard today and there are certainly some frustrations that have arisen from losing a minimum of 20 miles in 3 hours.

It’s quite disheartening, not knowing where we went wrong being so close to everyone for so long, then one cloud came above us last night and there it sat. It seems like Mike and Aksel have not left the nav station in the past few hours, trying to figure out what to do next.

“There is plenty of time after the leg to go over and pinpoint the spot where we were hurt the most and attempt to debrief it, but for now, its looking forward, getting to Auckland possibly chasing down some boats,” said Aksel when I had asked him what had caused our sudden loss of miles to the fleet.

It was a busy evening with a few tacks and sail changes so the boys are now catching up on some sleep. We are currently sailing around 12 knots in 10-12 knots of wind, and hoping that will build and slightly start to shift to the left so that we will be back to some fast jib reaching, with the hope of crunching down a few more miles in a shorter time.

Moral is still strong and a few jokes and top 10 lists have been made to keep our minds fresh and occupied. It’s been a stunning day out here on the gorgeous blue Pacific Ocean, and so we press on!

Lastly, All of us on Sanya Lan wish our fearless navigator Aksel Magdhal a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY! We look forward to a small celebration when we arrive in Auckland!

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