Frustration as fleet waits for moment to pounce

Smiling faces onboard Groupama4 © Yann Riou/ Groupama Sailing Team
Smiling face onboard Groupama4 © Yann Riou/ Groupama Sailing Team

Frustration is the feeling pulsing through the Volvo Ocean Race fleet this morning as the crews search desperately for a way through a weather front that currently blocks their path.

Although almost 100 nautical miles separates the six teams from Team Telefónica in the north to Groupama sailing team in the south, all six are playing the same waiting game.

On the other side of the front lie northerly winds, perfect for propelling the Volvo Open 70s up the coast of Africa at optimum speeds. But every time one team gets close, the window of opportunity is shut and the game starts again.

“We’re trying so hard to actually catch this front line and try to punch through to the northerlies on the other side,” said Ken Read, whose PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG crew were 69.4 miles behind leg leaders Team Telefónica at the 0700 UTC position report.

We keep running into the line of little pressure. I think the term is self-correcting. Have a good three hours and you sail into the lighter wind, which slows you and the rest catch up…and visa versa. It’s not very rewarding for all the work.”

Telefónica extended their lead over second placed Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing over night to 26.6 nm – but according to Ken Read, the leader will be determined by whichever team can get through the front first.

“The scheds say the boat furthest north is ahead because they are closest to the mark,” he added. “But, it is a six-boat dead even horse race that will reward the first to punch through – especially once we get to the new high pressure and tack to starboard for days of reaching in the Indian Ocean trade winds. It is a bit of a lottery out here right now.”

Forty nm north west of PUMA, third placed Team Sanya are facing a similar dilemma.

“Tactically speaking there is a big decision to make,” skipper Mike Sanderson said. “Do we take the more traditional route and push east into the high pressure or go with what the weather router wants us to do and head north?”

Although sixth in the fleet, Franck Cammas' Groupama were this morning posting speeds of 17.6 knots, almost two knots faster than any other boat.

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