Volvo Ocean Race: Puma holds slender lead

Puma continues to lead as crews look forward to a couple of days of tricky conditions

Monday April 23rd 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 0655 UTC:

Pos Boat Skipper Lat Lon SoG CoG DTF DTL
1 Puma Ken Read 25 34.650s 044 45.330w 14.5 72 4566.7  
2 Camper Chris Nicholson 25 35.330s 044 50.700w 14.9 66 4569.7 3
3 Abu Dhabi Ian Walker 25 35.800s 044 50.580w 15 67 4570 3.3
4 Telefonica Iker Martinez 25 40.850s 044 41.750w 15.4 68 4570.6 3.9
5 Groupama Franck Cammas 25 42.020s 044 44.870w 14 68 4572.9 6.2

There's been little by way of drama since the Volvo Ocean Race's leg six set sail from Itajai yesterday. All five boats are heading offshore, with the aim of getting around Rio de Janiero and ultimately Recife where the Brazilian coastline extends out to the east.

After she led out of Itajai yesterday, so Puma continues to lead and the boats have effectively split into southerly and northerly groups with  Puma leading the latter ahead of Camper and Abu Dhabi, while Telefonica leads Groupama to the south. As Miami is due north, the northerly boats are closer to the finish and so top the leaderboard, but in the dash ENE Telefonica and Groupama are doing better.

Weather-wise there aren't too many options. The present scenario is that there is an area of high pressure centred over the south of Brazil while the St Helena high is in well off to the southeast in the South Atlantic, although its northwestern corner is extending all the way up to the Brazilian coastline towards Salvador de Bahia. Between these two is a weak front assocated with a depression deep into the South Atlantic. This front is,positioned over a NW-SE axis reaching the Brazilian coast just to the east of Rio.

Over the next 48 hours, conditions look set to be predominantly light as the two areas of high pressure attempt to unite with the weak front preventing this from fully occurring. It seems that the boats won't reach any reliable pressure until mid-week when they reach the trades off Salvador. 

Will Oxley, navigator on Camper agrees: “The next four or five days will be very, very tricky - light and shifty with potential for big changes on the leaderboard,” He added that it could be a long time before any boat in the west looks better and that long term, it looks like an easterly setup could pay.

Hamish Hooper reports from Camper: 

It already seems like we never got off the boat, which isn’t all bad as hopefully routine will come easy and it won’t be such a big adjustment to life onboard as it normally is.

For everyone on Camper, it sure was a fleeting stopover. We hit the dock only six days ago, had a day of relaxing, some precious time with loved ones, then straight back into preparations for this leg- And now with what seemed like a brisk blink of an eye we find ourselves on our way to the USA, miraculously feeling a little bit refreshed.

Physically we haven’t started a leg in worse shape, but that’s the race really…

What it does go to show is how much of a mental game this race is and how more than anything focus has to remain, well, focused- intensely.

There is no point sweating the stuff you can’t control or getting frustrated at things that can’t change, you just have to keep focused on doing as best as you possibly can every time there are points up for grabs like in the in port race, and now in this vital Leg 6.

It’s a relatively short leg- 14 days maybe, but there is going to be a lot on. From what our trusty navigator Will Oxley tells me, this leg is going to be a virtual minefield of opportunities for big loses, and alternatively big gains so anything can happen.

This is what we are focusing on anyway, as the early stages of this leg were again a little painful. It seems a bit unfair that the guys busted a gut getting us around the in-port part of the start, then not long after, the boats we led away- Groupama and Abu Dhabi blasted past us as we were reaching eastward. As Daryl said, the wind direction was right in our ‘breadbasket’ in other words our weakest angles so we knew we would be struggling in the first few hours of the leg.

At least we know this is the case now so it’s not too demoralising - although it’s never really fun to see your competitors zooming past.

But perhaps more important than hanging on to the guys in front while we are reaching away, is our positioning for the next couple of days. The intricacies in degrees of direction will prove to be vital in the first three days of this leg- it has the potential to make or break the leg, so the nav station is going to be like the Oval Office in crisis time for the next few days anyway. Latest sked this morning has everyone within five miles of each other; I am guessing that it will be this close for quite some time.


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