Volvo Ocean Race: Lining up for the rollercoaster ride

Tropical Storm Alberto is out there somewhere as Groupama edge into the lead

Monday May 21st 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

After yesterday's driftathon start off Miami, overnight the six VO70s have been making better than expected progress as they head north up the Florida Coast aiming for Tropical Storm Alberto.

Chart above 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 Groupama Franck Cammas 28 28.200n 079 35.080w 13 21 3485.17 0
2 Telefonica Iker Martinez 28 29.680n 079 37.570w 13.5 18 3486.33 1.16
3 Puma Ken Read 28 23.450n 079 37.670w 12.3 22 3489.52 4.35
4 Camper Chris Nicholson 28 23.900n 079 38.180w 12.2 21 3489.68 4.51
5 Abu Dhabi Ian Walker 28 22.870n 079 37.750w 12.1 21 3489.87 4.7
6 Sanya Mike Sanderson 28 19.270n 079 36.770w 12.6 22 3490.93 5.76

Overnight, in 15 knots from the northeast, the boats have been making a reasonable 13-15 knots, although 2-3 knots of this will be Gulf Stream, which flows pretty much due north where the boats currently are.

The wind against current conditions have made conditions decidedly bouncy. “There’s nothing like going upwind in the Gulf Stream and slamming into a big swell,” confirmed Puma watch captain Tony Mutter.

While Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing optimistically led the fleet out of Miami yesterday, yesterday evening the three Juan K designs powered through with Telefonica leading Groupama. At around 0300 this morning, the boats were headed with Telefonica and Groupama tacking first (putting Cammas' team into first place) with the remainder of the boats following soon after.

Tropical Storm Alberto seems to be almost invisible on the GRIB files on the wind satellite radar images, however the National Hurricane Centre in the US were last night reporting it to be centred 200 miles south of Charleston - which is only around 60 miles NNW of where the VO70s are - with maximum wind speeds around it having dropped to 35 knots. If this is the case then over the course of today the boats should see the wind back all the way round into the southwest. The NHC forecast Alberto to shift slightly south before heading off northeast later today.

However the GFS and European model GRIBs conflict with this, both showing there currently being two weak depressions - one centred to the south of the Carolinas, the other halfway to Bermuda, with the latter deepening over the next 24 hours and heading north. They also agree that over this period the southwesterlies will fill in with the better pressure offshore. We hope the navigators can make better sense of this than we can...




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