Volvo Ocean Race: Punishing finish expected

Frontrunners tack east as there is a major compression in the fleet

Thursday March 8th 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 31 35.800s 167 08.980e 12.8 130 531.4  
2 Telefonica Iker Martinez 31 10.020s 165 15.200e 12.2 113 629.1 97.7
3 Puma Ken Read 30 34.980s 165 10.080e 9.4 156 650.8 119.4
4 Camper Chris Nicholson 30 23.200s 164 45.170e 10.4 157 675.2 143.8
5 Abu Dhabi Ian Walker 28 41.350s 164 20.700e 16.4 170 754.2 222.8
6 Sanya Mike Sanderson 28 31.150s 163 39.080e 14.4 144 788.6 257.2

Finally the inevitable tack east has occurred for the frontrunners in the Volvo Ocean Race. Groupama tacked shortly after 2000 UTC yesterday and has tacked five times since. She was followed by Telefonica which tacked east shortly before 0600 this morning, having overtaken Puma to move into second place around lunchtime UTC yesterday.

Over the last 24 hours the leaders have passed through a band of lighter winds (which Puma and Camper are tackling at the latest sched) and have since found themselves on the wind. This has resulted in there being a substantial compression in the fleet, the poorest getting richer, the backmarkers charging south with the breeze in the northeast and stronger: Sanya has taken 148 miles out of Groupama's lead, Abu Dhabi 117 miles, Camper 72, Telefonica 62 with the smallest gain made by Puma at just 18 miles. At the latest sched Sanya and Abu Dhabi are still the fastest boats in the fleet although this is likely to come to an end later today as they fall into the lighter, headed breeze.

Weatherwise, the high over New Zealand's South Island is affecting the wind direction and strength for the frontrunners. Currently on port tack, Groupama is currently sailing into a header on which she will tack. The closer they get to New Zealand (Cape Reinga at the top of New Zealand is 341 miles from Groupama at the latest sched), so the wind strength is expected to build to 25-30 knots and from the southeast so resolutely on the wind. These conditions are expected to continue for the next 36 hours when the high continues east causing the wind around the top of New Zealand to back into the northeast and to lighten. This will represent a brutal finish to what has proved to be a brutal leg for the boats...

In addition, as this leg has taken longer than the teams anticipated, so rationing has been imposed. Yann Riou reports from Groupama that they are finishing their daily food rations tomorrow. 

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