Volvo Ocean Race: Back up to speed

Now into the trades, just 5 miles separate the lead trio

Wednesday May 2nd 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 08 00.420n 049 38.850w 19 322 2058.6 0
2 Camper Chris Nicholson 07 55.330n 049 41.230w 18.6 324 2059.8 1.2
3 Telefonica Iker Martinez 07 54.770n 049 36.470w 19.7 325 2063.9 5.3
4 Abu Dhabi Ian Walker 06 21.580n 049 00.950w 17.2 318 2149.4 90.9
5 Groupama Franck Cammas 07 00.350n 048 25.450w 17.6 330 2152.9 94.4

Having extracted themselves from the Doldrums, yesterday afternoon the lead trio put in a hitch to the north as the wind veered into the southeast again, enabling them to accelerate their progress into the trades. And so, since turning back on to a northwesterly heading early yesterday evening, the wind has slowly been building and gradually backing as the trade winds have filled in for them. This occurred late yesterday evening and this morning the boats are now back up to 20 knot speeds, broad reaching in 20 knot easterlies with more left hand shift expected the further north they sail.

But what is most impressive is how close it remains at the front. Somehow Ken Read's team has dogmatically managed to hold on to the lead, even if it remains slender and even if they are now being attacked on two fronts with Camper and Telefonica respectively 1.2 and 5.3 miles behind in terms of distance to finish, both boats still to leeward of Puma and all three now within sight of each other on the water. And this is after 10 days at sea.

From here it will be another drag race, maximum righting moment game as the wind backs into the northeast today and it will be interesting to see if Camper can hold on to the coat tails of the Juan K-designed reaching machines. Towards the end of the week an area of high pressure is developing over Florida and the Bahamas and with this trying to hook up with the high on the opposite side of the Atlantic, it will play havoc with the trades as the boats approach the Caribbean. With more wind on the left side of the course, it is very likely the boats will be forced to sail through the Caribbean chain. Aside from the wind shadow in the lee of the islands, this will be no great hardship as this route is also the great circle to the next turning mark in the Bahamas.

Behind the lead trio another battle is developing. Having been up with the lead trio in the South Atlantic Abu Dhabi has fallen off the pace since the weekend and is now struggling to hang on to fourth place as Groupama fight back from last place. It looks ever more likely that Franck Cammas' team will win this fight, although it will be interesting to see if the Abu Dhabi crew is able to unleash their boat's alleged downwind potential.

Hamish Hooper writes from Camper:

Well well, it was PUMA’s turn again to be the focus of our pursuit.

We managed to quietly slip around Telefónica during the night previous and managed to close right up to PUMA who had been on our starboard horizon all day, slowly getting bigger and bigger. We have been on a slow course of convergence all day sailing different modes until late in the day PUMA replicated us by changing to their mast head code zero sail and carrying on, by darkness we had managed to narrow their lead to just over two miles.

We have managed to stay ahead of Telefónica, but they are only a handful of miles behind and visible of our port horizon.

It seems that we might be safely through the doldrums and into the trades now we are easing along at 20 knots with no great thunder clouds in the foreseeable sky. At least we are hoping this is the case anyway.

The next three days are looking like good fast trade wind sailing, so hopefully we can keep in the mix until the last 1000 miles where anything is going to likely happen. In the meantime the three way match race to America continues.

While I remember, I should inform that our crisis onboard has been averted. A couple of rolls of toilet have been discovered so hopefully with some honest rationing we should be alright to reach Miami, however our back up plan of chopping into the culprits clothes remains ready to be employed at the drop of a …. hat.

I found myself on the back foot this evening in a heated debate on how the abundant Flying fish use their ‘wings’ to fly. On one hand everyone other than me believed that the fish flap their wings to fly. I suggested they use their tails to get airborne and they use their wings like a glider, as they are not ‘wings’.

A jug of ice-cold sweet and healthy beer bought from a reputable sports bar was put on it. We are yet to find out the definitive answer, but a late vote of confidence for me from Will our own onboard marine biologist was appreciated. Time will tell who is correct, but I can taste that beer already. Miami is getting closer.

Speaking of which, I hear Florida is a place where a lot of people go to retire, which got me wondering if old WWF wrestlers go there to retire also. I reckon that ‘The Million Dollar Man’ Ted Debussy and his trusty sidekick Virgil have retired to a mansion in Miami. Although I believe there are a lot of reptiles in Florida and The Million Dollar man never liked reptiles especially Damien, the pet python of Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts.

“We have been locked in a three way battle to leave the Doldrums and enter the trades. Telefónica, ourselves and PUMA are virtually lined up across 15 miles of ocean racing to get into the trades first and benefit from a small jump on the other two boats.” CHRIS NICHOLSON

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