Volvo Ocean Race: Leaders gybe north

As after being becalmed for so long Abu Dhabi now has 50 knots

Wednesday March 28th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

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

Positions at 0655 UTC

Pos Boat Skipper Lat Lon Spd Crs DTF DTL
1 Groupama Franck Cammas 57 28.120s 094 11.720w 22.3 67 2782  
2 Puma Ken Read 58 36.280s 096 17.500w 20.2 87 2833 51
3 Telefonica Iker Martinez 53 31.280s 102 45.430w 17.8 78 3142.9 360.9
4 Camper Chris Nicholson 44 52.000s 115 17.880w 11.6 77 3827 1045
5 Abu Dhabi Ian Walker 46 55.250s 128 12.870w 19.8 102 4182.3 1400.3

At 0655 UTC this morning Cape Horn was 886 miles away for race leader Groupama. Over the course of yesterday, she and Puma passed the final ice waypoint and spent most of the day diving deeper into the Roaring Forties. This came to an end at around 0130 UTC for Groupama when they gybed northeast, followed at 0500 UTC by Puma which had sailed a further 37 miles to the south before making their manoeuvre. In his account below MCM on Groupama Yann Riou recounts how having spent a week on starboard, the gybe took all the crew a full two hours...

The two leaders have gybed north in order to stay in the best breeze as over the next 24 hours this is forecast to be concentrated in a band due west of the Horn as the depression they are chasing moves into the Atlantic and a giant ridge develops to their south in a gap between the South Ocean depressions. The leaders will be trying to stay in this band of decreasing westerlies as they approach the Horn, where Groupama's ETA is now likely to be sometime tomorrow night UTC.

Following their announcement yesterday that they will be heading into Ushuaia to make repairs to their damaged bow, third placed Telefónica also gybed this morning at around 0200. They have the slight worry that the depression currently to their NNW is forecast to head southeast over the next 48 hours bringing with it some powerful 40 knot northwesteries - not good for preserving their bow.

Meanwhile Camper is continuing towards Chile. They have had a pitifully slow 24 hours in which they covered just 179 miles with more than 1800 miles of limping into port still ahead of them. 

Abu Dhabi is finally past the ice waypoint and although she is still losing miles to the leaders the rot is on its way to stopping. Unfortunately they haven't managed to stay ahead of the front and data from on board now shows them to have 50 knots from the southwest, presumably accompanied by the boat breaking seas the leaders experienced a week ago. Nice... And it looks like they will have another 24 hours of stiff conditions before this abates.

Simon Fisher reports from on board: "Gear shift. We have had this in both senses. The past couple of days we have been moving gear as far aft as we can - and with the wind finally getting above twenty five knots then gusting to thirty, it feels like dropping a gear in an Aston Martin. This is why we are down here. Good boat, good team - the first timers looking forward to their Cape Horn rounding hopefully in daylight, and everyone working hard to reel in the front runners. The seas are building, the breeze is building and as the scheds come in we can see we are making gains on everyone, so watch out boys, here we come..."

Yann Riou reports from Groupama

It's a bit of a dull day on Groupama 4. The sunshine, which has put in a number of appearances since we made it into the deep south, is missing today. In its place is greyness, fine drizzle and dampness...

The only satisfaction is the fact that the sea, which is still very heavy this morning, has calmed down a little and is enabling us to pick up the pace. However, the conditions remain boisterous. You do end up getting used to everything too and we've gradually found a semblance of monotony taking hold.

And then came the gybing. Now, in the in-port race that doesn't take any more than minute, whilst here, it's not quite the same kettle of fish!

First comes the bailing and the cleaning up of the leeward section of the cabin. Then removal of the condensation from the deckhead and removal of all the covers and other systems put in place to optimise the stowage of gear.

And then begins the real stacking. 10 removal men, some Breton, some not, get into action for a fairly intense sequence of effort for 10 minutes. The initial venue is down below and then it's up on deck. And it's not always done with refinement...

Next comes the gybe itself. It's a bit stressful, under the cover of darkness and in this heavy sea, especially as we've been on this tack for the past week. So we immediately do a visual check of the rig and the various systems.

What ensues is a mission to finish optimising the stacking down below and on deck.

The results of the operation: a good two hours, one of which requires input from every one of the crew. Two hours during which time we do nothing else. We don't do any nav, we don't get any rest, we don't eat. We gybe!

As regards this gybing, this takes place at 58 degrees and 13 minutes South. This will doubtless be the most southerly point of our course in this Volvo Ocean Race. And that's not such a bad thing, because it's damn cold around this region!

Have a good day.



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