Volvo Ocean Race: Abu Dhabi noses in front

As the boats prepare for another upwind slog later today

Friday May 25th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

The curve around to the northeast has created a reshuffle in the leaderboard overnight with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing nosing into the lead and Telefonica on a flier to the south.

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 Abu Dhabi Ian Walker 38 00.170n 054 57.880w 12.5 81 2129.76 0
2 Camper Chris Nicholson 37 54.500n 054 57.030w 12.6 80 2130.66 0.9
3 Puma Ken Read 37 57.900n 055 09.580w 12.4 76 2139.25 9.5
4 Telefonica Iker Martinez 37 12.270n 055 10.150w 9.8 48 2152.52 22.8
5 Groupama Franck Cammas 37 52.280n 055 35.230w 12.64 71 2160.25 30.5
6 Sanya Mike Sanderson 38 01.720n 056 30.050w 8.9 67 2199.16 69.4

After the whole fleet gybed north early yesterday morning, so by late morning the boats in the west were benefitting from a massive lifting shift as the wind veered into the northwest causing the Abu Dhabi, Camper and Puma all to converge.

As the rest of the fleet headed northeast, just after noon race leader Telefonica, still sailing in southwesterly breeze, chose to split from the fleet, gybing due east. With the wind dropping, mid-evening by which time Telefonica had separated by some 80 miles to the southeast of the main group, she chose to gybe back and with this at around 0130 she lost the lead to Abu Dhabi. At the latest sched the Spanish VO70 has dropped to fourth as the boats to the north have benefitted from the wind further veering into the NNW allowing them to turn due east.

At present the boats are rounding the north side of a shallow depression, but the main meteorological feature due to affect them is the area of high pressure currently just south of Newfoundland which is forecast to drop slowly south today. So it is most likely that as the wind continues to veer into the east today, the boats will tack but stay on their present course leaving them upwind on starboard. Then, they continue to head ENE through the southeast quadrant of the high waiting for the wind to start backing into the north allowing them to finally get into some favourable flow to take them towards Europe at speed. This is a slightly dangerous strategy for if they are in any way hampered then they will get enveloped by the high as it moves south.

According to Camper navigator Will Oxley, the Gulf Stream is continuing to play a key role in the leg. “Being on the right or wrong side of an eddy can mean a speed differential of four or five knots,” he said.

This morning, Groupama skipper Franck Cammas reported a flat sea, no waves and no water on deck. “We have the masthead code zero hoisted and the wind is increasing a bit – 10, 11, 12 knots now,” he said.

Furthest north is Mike Sanderson and Sanya. Although progress is slow for the team, morale has been boosted by glorious sailing conditions and the sight of whales and dolphins accompanying the boat. Thursday was a truly pleasant day of sailing according to skipper Mike Sanderson who said, “It’s not very often you get this in the North Atlantic.”

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