Volvo Ocean Race: Puma back into the lead

VO70s back up to speed but they must tackle an occluded front this afternoon

Wednesday April 25th 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 Spd Crs DTF DTL
1 Puma Ken Read 20 05.400s 037 32.070w 17.1 37 4115.2  
2 Camper Chris Nicholson 19 51.780s 038 34.650w 15.1 40 4116.6 1.3
3 Abu Dhabi Ian Walker 19 57.170s 038 41.170w 15.7 33 4123.5 8.2
4 Telefonica Iker Martinez 20 28.420s 037 39.870w 17.6 32 4139.2 24
5 Groupama Franck Cammas 20 40.150s 037 53.970w 17.7 35 4153.6 38.4

This morning the five VO70s are back up to cruising speed after the breeze filled in late yesterday afternoon, with Puma first to get into pressure. As a result Ken Read's team have edged ahead of the inshore boats to take the lead in the race up the Brazilian coast.

The inshore boats Camper and Abu Dhabi Ocean Race early yesterday afternoon got to within 15 miles of the Brazilian coast as they attempted to find breeze while staying out of the worst of the southbound Brazil current in the light condition.

Yesterday the offshore skippers were pleased with their position relative to the coast.

“There’s a fair amount of instability inshore, but it’s hard to judge how many miles away you need to be,” said Franck Cammas on Groupama. “Our aim is to gradually distance ourselves from the Brazilian coast. We’re set to hit another zone of light airs on Wednesday, and there’s even a strong chance of being forced onto a beat, which will enable us to heave even further offshore.”

Telefonica's Iker Martínez agreed. “We didn’t want to get too close to the coast, it was a choice, but now we can see that everyone has been hit by the light airs, so we will have to see what happens. We have confidence in our position the east and the boat is going well. It is a question of wind.”

While conditions may be good at present, about 80 miles further up the track they will encounter a light patch where they will have to tackle a dying occluded front before the wind fills in from the north, rapidly veering into the east as the trade winds fill in (see the Brazilian synoptic chart here). With some 60 miles of lateral separation between Puma from the inshore boats (Abu Dhabi is around 8 miles astern of Camper now) it could be that one of the groups gets through this zone faster and with the front receeding to the southeast, we reckon that the inshore boats should be able to make a faster passage through. 

Hamish Hooper reports from Camper:

At the moment my first action of the day is to go up on deck, scan the horizon and play spot the other Volvo boats. It was a satisfying way to start the day seeing Abu Dhabi had shrunk over night and was now around three or four miles astern of us. The other three boats, well they are a long way away, having created a significant split in the fleet. A split, which will no doubt over the next few days reveal winners and losers of the first stage of this leg.

Despite the majority of the day being spent in painfully light breezes, it ended up being quite an eventful one starting with the biggest, most playful pod of huge dolphins any of us had witnessed. Even Will, our onboard marine biologist was amazed by what he saw. He was quite correct in saying that there is something wrong with you if dolphins don’t bring a smile to your face.

Trae thought it was a better aerial display than the time he went to Sea World. We can now cross off Sea World from our agenda in Miami and spend our admission fee on something else American… like super sizing every meal and firing guns. Trae also suggested that it is regarded as good luck when escorted by dolphins at sea. He always says great stuff like that. A little bit of good luck would come in handy at times for us on Camper.

But the thing is, I struggle with ‘luck’ onboard these boats and in this race because you never actually know how good or bad your luck is because there is always two ways of looking at situations.

For example yesterday evening with an almighty bang we broke a tack line when doing a sail change. It was the kind of explosive bang which booms from somewhere on the boat, everything goes silent for one long second until its figured out what’s broken, if everyone is OK and what the next move is.

Amazingly just as soon as the tack line broke, the guys had the fractional zero sail plugged back in and we were back on course only losing a couple of minutes in the process. When ropes break under close to three tonnes of load, they tend to move in different directions very fast and if someone is in the way, it can be nasty.

So the question is - was it bad luck that the tack line broke in the first place, or was it good luck that no one was hurt and we didn’t lose much time at all. You never know if it’s good or bad, but either way one thing is for sure on these boats, you never want to push your luck too much.

I guess we should thank the dolphins anyway and hope a little bit of that good luck continues over the next few days that will see us lead the fleet into the trade winds and around the eastern tip of Brazil.

”We were doing an inline peel and we were 90% of the way through it, there was a big bang and it’s bad because when sails fly out with ropes attached to them, people can get hurt. Luckily everyone was ok and it probably only cost us a minute or two so we are very fortunate.” CHRIS NICHOLSON

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