Volvo Ocean Race: Two horse race
The Southern Ocean leg of this Volvo Ocean Race, across the Pacific, around Cape Horn and up the South Atlantic to the new Brazilian stopover in Itajal, is certainly taking its toll on the fleet. First there was Abu Dhabi's structural damage, then Team Sanya's rudder breakage, with Camper heading for Chile where they plan to stop to make repairs to their damaged internal bow structure and now Telefonica easing off the gas as they have indicated some delamination issues in the bow area, the third on this leg to suffer this kind of structural problem and also the first of the Juan K designs to have problems.
Yesterday Iker Martínez, skipper of the Spanish VO70, confirmed they were concentrating on protecting their boat and themselves against the harsh conditions in order to complete the leg safely.
“Everyone's security comes first,” Martínez said. “We had a problem in the bow that we don't want to escalate. It's a shame having to go slowly, we don't like it at all, especially when you're fighting. The boat is going well now, but there is a danger that it could be damaged, so that is why we have decreased our speed.”
As a result Telefonica's speed has typically remained in the high teens whereas Groupama and Puma, continue to forge on, their speeds into the early 20s. The Spanish boat has now dropped back to more than 200 miles astern of Groupama.
Meanwhile Groupama and Puma forge on. We're waiting for the wind direction they are showing to veer into the northwest indicating that they have sailed through the front associated with the giant intense depression to their southeast and at present data off Groupama is indicating the wind still coming from due west.
Once through the front, then we can expect these two boats to start making some impressive speeds towards Cape Horn, still ?? miles away at the latest sched. In fact the depression, which has stopped moving east for the last 24 hours (allowing the leaders to catch it up) is set to take off again towards the Horn, but it looks as through the boats will still be able to remain ahead of the front associated with it therefore allowing them to make good speed, importantly in a less boat-breaking sea state. It looks like by the time they come to round Cape Horn on Thursday the conditions will have dropped to a much more manageable 20 knots, still from the west.
Behind, the pain continues for poor Abu Dhabi. A downside of the ice gates is that they limit tactical options and as a result they are suffering with a zone of high pressure to their north and no escape route into stronger winds (whereas the leaders were blazing a trail east at this point in strong westerlies). It looks like it could be the best part of 24 hours before relief comes and they can get on the Southern Ocean express. Then we could see conditions which many believe to be Abu Dhabi's best.