Volvo Ocean Race: Lighter day ahead

Leaders compress as Abu Dhabi has an opportunity to catch up

Tuesday March 20th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

Volvo Ocean Race charts courtesy of Expedition/Tasman Bay Navigation Systems

Positions at 0716 UTC:

Pos Boat Skipper Lat Lon Spd Crs DTF DTL
1 Telefonica Iker Martinez 42 32.570s 172 16.570w 14.2 159 6180.6 0
2 Groupama Franck Cammas 42 03.420s 172 12.720w 14.8 154 6187.1 6.5
3 Puma Ken Read 42 00.520s 172 16.720w 15 153 6190.9 10.3
4 Camper Chris Nicholson 42 30.400s 172 36.570w 14.8 159 6195.6 15
5 Sanya Mike Sanderson 41 37.770s 172 59.080w 13.5 147 6228.3 47.7
6 Abu Dhabi Ian Walker 37 37.280s 179 50.330w 16.5 224 6616.3 435.7

The VO70s have been arcing slowly south over the last 24 hours. While most were on a 120-130° heading yesterday morning, so they have gradually eased on to a course of around 150-160° and in turn their speeds have dropped from blast reaching along at more than 20 knots to the mid-teens at the latest sched. With the leaders sailing into lighter conditions so there has also been some compression in the fleet with just 15 miles separating first to fourth compared to 29 yesterday. 

In fact the order of the leaderboard is slight misleading with Camper in reality still holding second place but having dropped down the leaderboard due to her shift to the west side of the course.

Although they are now into the Roaring Forties the boats are going to be in for a tricky day with two areas of high pressure merging over the course right ahead of them. The centre of this high is set to move northeast overnight and so the tactics for the boats will be to slip around the southwest side of this in favourable following winds. However the crews are faced with the choice of heading further west (as Camper are doing) and take a wider route around the high in stronger winds but sailing more miles or staying further east sailing less miles but in less breeze. Thankfully the navigators have powerful routing software to help them make this call.

This scenario will be one that allows Abu Dhabi to regain some miles. Today as the leaders have a light day so she will still be in the breeze and even now she is the fastest in the fleet. With the leaders have to make a detour south to get around the high, it looks likely that Abu Dhabi will be able to sail a shorter course.

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