Photo: Matt Knighton / ADOR

Summer in the Roaring Forties

Upwind, but the sun is out, for the Volvo Ocean Race boats

Friday March 20th 2015, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

The Volvo Ocean Race boats passed back into the supposedly 'Roaring Forties' yesterday, but with it came a change in conditions, ith the furious blasting reaching conditions abating, the wind backing into the southeast, leaving the boats pressed on starboard and with the sun out. Not the hardcore conditions veterans of the round the world race were hoping for.

As the chart below indicates, the boats are currently a long way north of the great circle and the reason for this is the onset of a giant area of high pressure, currently lurking to the southeast of New Zealand and, as Cyclone Pam recedes west, forecast to head in the direction of the VO65s imminently. Sailing the shortest course would see the high passing over the boats, whereas staying north means that they can hopefully skirt around its northern perimeter, remaining in the breeze albeit increasing on the nose.

Image below (click to enlarge) courtesy of Expedition and Predictwind

The GFS forecast has the centre of the high moving from its present position to half way to the present position of the boats by 0640 tomorrow. Between now and then the wind is forecast to back slightly more which will force the boats onto to even more of a northerly heading. Unfortunately a lobe is forecast to develop off the northeastern corner of the high. Hopefully the boats will be to the east of this as it develops otherwise they will get trapped. East of this lobe - which tomorrow morning is forecast to be some 300 miles down the race track from their present position - they will see the wind fill in from the southeast, backing into the south. This will be a classic 'rich get richer' scenario with the boats furthest southeast first to feel the effects of the improving conditions. 

Within the fleet Team Alvimedica's northerly position seems to have paid off for the time being. While her course means she sails more miles, she has pulled into the lead, enjoying not only a more relaxed wind angle (162°) but better pressure (23 knots) compared to Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, which remains furthest south (currently some 61 miles to the southwest of Team Alvimedica) with 18 knots from 154°. But given the relative positions of the boats Team Brunel is looking to be in good shape, leading the charge down the middle of the course. 

Matt Knighton reports from Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing:

The sun is out, we’ve all been able to enjoy a warm meal, the sea state has calmed down – yet still there are mixed emotions onboard. Cyclone Pam has passed us by and as the winds die down there is a small part in each one of us that wishes we were still riding the big winds east towards Cape Horn.

There is a point where once you’ve accepted how wet, cold, and windy this leg is going to be you don’t mind the forecasts – you just want to go fast.

Now the wake of Pam has us sailing downwind in moderate breeze and many eyes are wandering through the nav station glancing at the big red parts of the map that have passed us by. Ian has been the most vocal out of all the team with his frustration regarding the decision to delay the start of this Leg further. For some of the veterans onboard, riding the back of Pam we may have seen 40+ knots of wind and had to take it easy holding the option of bearing away towards the north to bail out if the sailing got to hairy.

It now feels like we’re slowly sailing southeast waiting for the next wave of pressure to hit us – a great unknown given how quickly storms have been developing in the Southern Ocean this season.

Still, we definitely respect the decision and prudence to start when we did. We’re now taking the time to dry out from yesterday and prepare for the cold and wet conditions ahead.

There is red in the wind forecast several days ahead near the ice gates – hopefully we don’t exhaust all our caffeine chewing gum just trying to get there.

See some nice video from on board Dongfeng Race Team in yesterday's more lively conditions.



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