Volvo Ocean Race: Breeze fills in momentarily

As Groupama takes third in Turks & Caicos split

Tuesday May 8th 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 Lon Spd Crs DTF DTL
1 Puma Ken Read 24 03.100n 075 02.450w 8.5 324 317.2 0
2 Camper Chris Nicholson 23 59.220n 074 49.280w 9.2 339 328.5 11.3
3 Groupama Franck Cammas 23 14.850n 074 30.900w 11 311 372.4 55.2
4 Telefonica Iker Martinez 23 14.287n 074 13.680w 11 318 383.3 66.1
5 Abu Dhabi Ian Walker 23 03.400n 073 21.770w 7 292 425.5 108.3

After a pitifully slow evening (UTC), so a light northeasterly filled in for the lead duo at around midnight allowing them to start making progress again towards the next turning mark to the north of Eluthera Island, now 125 miles away as the crow flies for Puma.

But the big news of the last 24 hours has been Groupama's stunt, leaving the Turks and Caicos Islands to starboard. As Telefonica swept southwest to find breeze and to converge with them, in the process the Spanish VO70 lost third place to the French. Overnight both boats have passed to the south of Mayaguana Island and returned to the weather side of the Bahamas chain, shaving the eastern shore of Acklins Island. At the latest sched Groupama is 33 miles east of Long Island in the Bahamas with Telefonica taking up position offshore of her.

Meanwhile Puma and Camper remain locked in battle, at present passing down the channel between the southern end of Cat Island and San Salvador, the island were Route of Discovery records traditionally finish (as it is believed this is the spot where Christopher Columbus first discovered the 'New World'). They are currently making some progress north, but the satellite wind radar images indicate that there is still a lot of holes in the wind breeze between their position and the turning mark. The high may have shifted east but over the course of the next 24 hours its western side is set to grow and contract causing the wind to repeatedly shift between the southeast and southwest, which is not good for Miami-ward progress. This comes as Groupama and Telefonica, now 55 and 66 miles off the lead respectively, are making 11 knots, although these speeds are unlikely to last.

Despite the proximity to the finish there is still more snakes and ladders to come on this leg.

Hamish Hooper reports from Camper:

The closeness of this boat race amazes me at times. Time and time again boats spread out across the ocean, make big gains or losses then reappear as if they were picked up and placed nearby to make the race more interesting again.

There have only been a handful of days that we haven’t been in sight of PUMA this entire leg and this morning they reappeared on our bow, which was a very welcome sight.

It was almost within a space of 24 hours that we had been held up under a cloud and PUMA had stretched out to a nearly 50 mile lead, fast forward to yesterday morning there they are, only a matter of miles ahead again. There is of course a good reason for this, the tireless hours Nico and Will have been in the nav station plotting best course evolved into big gains back into the leaders over the past night.

Unfortunately almost as quick as they appeared they disappeared again along with any wind at all, and so one of the most painful days I have experienced in this race began.

It has been utter torture. Just sitting, the guys unable to do anything or get anywhere because there is literally not a hint of wind. It is the feeling of total helplessness which nags at you. There is no breeze to cool things down at all so the heat is inescapable. But worst of all, all I could think was there is no way any of the other boats can be doing any worse than us because it is simply not possible to go any slower. Well, such was the case until a sked came through and somehow we had made 0.66 of a mile on PUMA.

It takes real mental strength to not let the utter frustration get the better of you in these situations.

At one stage a small puff of three knots came along, it was cause for about 10 minute celebration, then cruelly it was gone.

Finally, a half decent breeze emerged late in the evening and just like that we are away again sailing at about eight knots, which seems like great speed given the day of drifting we had. It is our hope that the boats behind us remain parked up for a while longer so all of our efforts can go into chasing PUMA down again just over the horizon.

We are hoping that this leg has now turned into a two-boat match race, but like we saw Telefónica drop so many miles the other night, nothing is given and won’t be until the finish line is crossed. This will be a very long 48 hours or so until then.

The sky is graphitised with jet streams, Mike keeps pointing them out and saying how wise the other people going to Miami are because they aren’t trying to sail there.

I am so hot right now… there is nowhere to hide from the heat.

“So close yet so far away for most of the day.” ROB SALTHOUSE




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