Volvo Ocean Race: Leaders approach final ice mark

Rollercoaster ride set to begin for Abu Dhabi today

Tuesday March 27th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

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

Positions at 0410 UTC

Pos Boat Skipper Lat Lon Spd Crs DTF DTL
1 Groupama Franck Cammas 54 06.100s 107 02.570w 20.2 113 3271.8  
2 Puma Ken Read 53 52.130s 107 58.050w 19.2 115 3307.4 35.6
3 Telefonica Iker Martinez 50 22.880s 112 46.050w 16.4 106 3557.6 285.8
4 Camper Chris  Nicholson 44 50.520s 120 37.550w 10.8 78 4006.7 734.9
5 Abu Dhabi Ian Walker 44 52.320s 138 44.420w 17.2 70 4601.2 1329.4
6 Sanya Mike Sanderson Suspended racing        

Groupama and Puma, the only two boats continuing to 'race' on the Southern Ocean leg of the Volvo Ocean Race, are approaching the final ice waypoint en route to Cape Horn. At the latest sched Groupama still has 44 miles to go before she passes the waypoint at 54°30S 106°W. Over the last 24 hours Puma has closed on the French race leader, down from 48.8 yesterday to 35.6 at the latest sched. However everyone else has lost ground on the leaders with Telefonica falling back by almost 200 miles, while Abu Dhabi lost a further 180 miles.

For the leaders the front we mentioned in our report yesterday has dissolved into a trough, running between the depression to the south and the one to the north which is what caused the leaders' speeds to drop slightly yesterday afternoon (still around 30 knots...). Now they are back into it, enduring 40 knot westerlies generated by the substantial depression to their south. Cape Horn is still 1350 miles away for Groupama. It now looks like the leaders will round Cape Horn on Friday and between now and then the depression to the south is forecast to pass to the south of South American in 24 hours time and through into the Atlantic by Thursday morning. As a result conditions look set to abate gradually to around 20 knots over the next 48 hours, but will be rising again come Friday with the onset of the next depression.

Meanwhile Abu Dhabi is getting up to speed. Although the GRIB file indicated in the chart above shows her still to be on the perfery of the high, in fact the wind is now up to 20 knots from the WNW. At some point today however the rollercoaster ride will begin for Ian Walker's crew with a cold front approaching bringing with it 30-35 knot winds. It would be nice to think that Abu Dhabi might be able to hang on to the strong northwesterlies ahead of this front and the flatter water that will allow her to make big speeds, unfortunately it doesn't look like they will and they too will fall into the southwesterlies behind it with a similar lumpy boat breaking sea state that has caused the damage to Camper and Telefonica. We will have to wait and see.

Approaching New Zealand Team Sanya has picked up a tow. MCM Andres Sorriano reports: “You know, you and I will probably be part of only a handful of people, if not the first two people to see the sun rise this morning,” said a smiling Richard Mason to me at early dawn this morning. It was a stunning night, full of stars and clear skies with a steady breeze and sailing under our A3 downwind at around 15k. It was bound to be a glorious day.

Day broke and it certainly lived up to expectations. The sun came out and it was one of those days that just makes you smile. Soon on the horizon a boat appeared and as it got closer it contacted us and we knew it was our tow. With a dying breeze and with the wind expected to go completely and we had arranged for a tow that left Tauranga at midnight to come meet us. “It’s a pretty tight schedule so we are trying do everything we can to make a ship that leaves tomorrow night,” remarked Mike as we secured a tow from the mighty Star Key. We are now underway making 15k in pack up mode. Sails are now de-battened, things are drying out on deck and we have had our last freeze-dried meal for a while. Although a bit sad and a bit strange, we don’t let that occupy our minds too much and just concentrate on moving forward with what we can do next.

We look forward to seeing our shore team tonight and reuniting with friends and loved ones. The next few days will be packed with action as we prepare the boat to be loaded on a ship and you can be sure that we will keep you updated on the progress…

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