Volvo Ocean Race: Gybing towards the equator

Puma still leads while Camper and Telefonica are engaged in a match race

Sunday April 29th 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 0955 UTC:

Pos Boat Skipper Lat Lon Spd Crs DTF DTL
1 Puma Ken Read 02 52.600s 036 49.430w 18.4 267 3065.8 0
2 Camper Chris Nicholson 02 33.620s 036 19.080w 16.6 332 3077.7 11.9
3 Telefonica Iker Martinez 02 32.950s 036 18.350w 17.3 315 3077.8 12
4 Abu Dhabi Ian Walker 03 28.530s 036 13.220w 17.5 305 3116.5 50.7
5 Groupama Franck Cammas 04 22.030s 035 16.370w 17 342 3194.2 128.4

The Volvo Ocean Race boats are now well past Recife and generally trying to make progress towards the next turning mark of the race off the Bahamas around 3,200 miles from Recife, on a course of 318°.

With Puma still hanging on to the lead, 116 miles northeast of Fortaleza, the boats are currently gybing downwind in the 18 knot southeasterly trades with all at the latest sched heading just south of west on port. While Puma has managed to retain first place a heavyweight bout is going on for second between Telefonica and Camper with the Kiwi crew gybing on to Telefonica's line shortly before the latest sched, the two boats now fully within sight on each other.

Ahead of the boats lies the Equator crossing moving the boats back into the Northern hemisphere for the second time this race. But of possibly more significance is the Doldrums, but at present the wind satellite radar images of the area indicate that the boats are unlikely to encounter much in the way of squalls, with the wind filling in from the northeast at around 001°N, but it is likely to go light. 

Hamish Hooper reports from Camper:

It has been all eyes on our competitors Telefónica and Puma for the last 24 hours. We have been stalking PUMA all day and night, gaining a mile here, losing a mile there. Gaining gauge on the black boat, then them clawing it back.

A side bonus was we managed to lose sight of Telefónica over the horizon - the one off the stern for a change. As good as it was, you know they will just be lurking back there set to come powering back when conditions favour them slightly more. There is definitely a feeling of the hunter being hunted. But our sights remain firmly on the leaders Puma, so the round the clock 24-hour surveillance continues.

Now we have passed the eastern corner of Brazil and have begun the slow turn northwest. Puma seem to favour a slightly more inshore approach to us preferring to sail a few miles further out to sea in the hope of a little more breeze. Unfortunately in the 0100 sked we lost a few hard miles to them and a couple to Telefónica also. The guys have been saying it from the beginning that leg will be all about subtleties and inches, so far this it is proving 100% correct.

We are now around 3°S cruising pleasantly downwind towards the equator at over 15 knots. It doesn’t seem like all that long ago I was around here heading south having my eye brows shaved off and rotten fish and days old freeze dry muck smeared all over me.

Oh such good memories… Amazingly this will be my fourth equator crossing already.

With our ‘northing’ overnight the heat has gone up another couple of notches and cooking with gas burners in the galley has again become like a 45-minute session in sauna, the water tank seems to be continually running low, and the all too familiar stench of putrid body odour has returned.

Absurdly this all makes you think fondly of the cold in the Southern Ocean for some stupid reason.

The coolest part on the boat is on deck in the afternoon with the massive A3 spinnaker shading everyone from the hot sun. Although at one slight moment there was a spit of rain which a few of the guys got very excited about, it ended up being more like a fine cooling spritz than any worthwhile amount of washing water, it bought a few smiles anyway so not totally fruitless.

A good part of conversation, when it allows, is moving towards what each of us wants to buy in when we get to the US of A. There have been some interesting and exciting suggestions. It’s not often you hear a group of grown men talk about shopping, but when the last time any of us had a spare minute to so much as pull our wallet out was the other side of the world in China, you would expect even buying a can of Dr Pepper to be quite the buzz. My first purchase is going to be an Abraham Lincoln beard - in fact maybe I won’t even have to buy one, just have half a shave….

“Finally we have reached the top of Brazil, it is a seriously big country. The Bahamas lie 3000 miles ahead. It looks like mostly downwind sailing all of the way, which is quite a change for the race, first though we have an ITCZ to deal with. The trades are looking quite disrupted for the last part of the leg and some ‘interesting’ routing options are popping up. Normally you reject these out of hand, but based on our experience so far in this Volvo ocean race - every option remains on the table.” WILL OXLEY

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