Volvo Ocean Race: Pace slows again

As Groupama leaves the Turks & Caicos Islands to starboard

Monday May 7th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

Volvo Ocean Race charts courtesy of Expedition/Tasman Bay Navigation Systems and GRIB (GFS model) from PredictWind

Positions at 0655:

Pos Boat Skipper Lat Long Spd Crs DTF DTL
1 Puma Ken Read 22 30.830n 072 57.230w 7.9 294 464 0
2 Camper Chris Nicholson 22 24.950n 072 44.070w 12.9 301 477 12.9
3 Telefonica Iker Martinez 22 10.000n 071 46.770w 6.5 234 527.3 63.3
4 Groupama Franck Cammas 21 12.570n 072 10.950w 12.6 302 549.8 85.8
5 Abu Dhabi Ian Walker 21 41.120n 071 17.730w 11 307 566.2 102.2

As forecast, conditions are going light in the Volvo Ocean Race with the leaders now edging up the first of the Bahamas chain. With the wind dropping the further the boats get up the race course, so there has once again been compression. In particular Camper has done a good job overnight to regain ground on Puma. From 40 miles astern at lunchtime yesterday, Chris Nicholson's team have reduced this to 12.9 at the latest sched.

The same cannot be said for Telefonica. Their northerly route compared to Puma and Camper hasn't paid and from being 41 miles off the pace yesterday morning, this has now increased to 63.

Behind the leaders, both Groupama and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing have regained ground overnight. Groupama was 130 miles behind Puma early yesterday evening but this has now shrunk to 86, with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing making similar gains, from 163 miles yesterday afternoon to just over 100. And more compression is expected...

Tactically an interesting scenaro is playing out at the back of the fleet with Groupama passing to leeward of the Turks & Caicos Islands, as the rest of the boats, including Abu Dhabi, have left or are about to leave them to port.  It will be interesting to see if this pays - theoretically in terms of the overall weather picture, there should be a little more breeze here, and as the T&C are very low-lying there's not much to be in the lee of. However given that Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing has reduced their deficit on Groupama from 42 miles to 17 in 18 hours, this perhaps doesn't bode well for the French. Clearly worried by the charge of the UAE team, Telefonica has gybed to cover them.

Weather-wise, the centre of the high has shifted so that it is currently hovering directly over Eluthera Island in the Bahamas, to the north of which is the first turning mark to lead the boats into the Providence Channel through the Bahamas and on towards Miami. The centre of this high is due to shift southeast over the course of today before moving offshore tomorrow, allowing the southeasterlies to fill in to a degree. However this afternoon and tonight will be one of extreme pain for the boats. Or it could be that Groupama keeps the breeze and steams into the lead at pace tomorrow morning...

“An interesting game is being played out right now," said Camper skipper Chris Nicholson. "We are literally island hopping in the Bahamas, picking up local sea breezes, trying to get every morsel of breeze that is on hand.”

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