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Going fast in the South onboard Groupama4 © Yann Riou/ Groupama Sailing Team
Going fast in the South onboard Groupama4 © Yann Riou/ Groupama Sailing Team

A cruel and unusual form of mental torture continues to be inflicted on the six-boat fleet in the Volvo Ocean Race on the second leg from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi.

The expectation was that by this stage the fleet would be sailing fast in solid trade winds but a recalcitrant trough of inconsistent weather has stymied their progress for the last several days.


Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing bowman Justin Slattery summed up the mood of all the sailors: “I have never sailed in a more frustrating place in my life,” he said. “The weather refuses to make up its mind!


Abu Dhabi media crew member Nick Dana gives a clue to the frustrating conditions which have resulted in near hysteria amongst the sailors.

Try this on your brain: three to four knots of wind, sails brutally slapping the rig at 160 true wind angle. Within seconds it shifts to 100 degrees, gusts up to 15 to18 knots and tips the boat over if you were not quick enough with the keel or mainsheet. The strong pressure lasts two minutes maximum and requires a minor stack change (nothing really minor about shifting several tons across a moving surface). Then the breeze dies again in a matter of seconds and sends the boat upright and the sails against the rig, sending chills down everyone’s spines. Put that on repeat for 15 straight hours and see how you come out the other side.”


PUMA Ocean Racing skipper Ken Read observed "This is about as miserable sailing as I have ever done. It's getting pretty old."


Adding to the sailors’ discomfort, the slow moving weather front also regularly deluges the boats with rain.


On Team Sanya, watch captain Richard Mason described the agonising cycle of events:“We just keep sailing into the back of the front, it rains and the wind shuts down, and it then gets ahead of us, so we speed back up, but it is not long before we catch up to it again. I never expected to be in the same weather system five days after leaving Cape Town,” 


All of the teams are aware of the massive reward that awaits the first team to find a way through the impasse.


On Team Sanya navigator Aksel Magdahl said “This is usually like a highway with steady downwind sailing for days, but this front has changed everything.


The first “The boat that makes it through the ridge first has a good shot of gaining largely on the rest of the fleet. But I don’t know who will get through first, it’s anyone’s guess.”


At the 0700 UTC position report today Ian Walker’s Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing had moved into first position Walker’s crew will be keeping a close eye on the progress of Chris Nicholson’s CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand, Ken Read’s PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG and Mike Sanderson’s Team Sanya who are further south but more advanced to the east – a position which could see them break free first.


Overall race leader Iker Martínez on Team Telefónica has dropped back overnight and now lies almost 30 nautical miles south west of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.


Franck Cammas’ Groupama sailing team have become the wild card of the fleet, pushing hard to the south where over the last three hours they have made rapid progress compared to their competitors more than 200 nautical miles further north.

With the French reprising their Leg 1 strategy of splitting from the pack, Groupama media crew member Yann Riou this morning joked about the extra miles his team were racking up compared to the others.


“There is a trophy for the boat who covers the most miles in 24 hours. Shame there isn't one for the boat, who covers the most miles full stop. That would be us for sure!”


© www.volvooceanrace.com


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