Volvo Ocean Race: Team Dongfeng: The Need for Speed
Leg 4: Sanya to Auckland (5, 264 nautical miles)
Days at sea: 5
Boat speed: 16 knots
Distance to finish: 4,618 nautical miles.
Position in fleet: Close battle between the 4 boats in the south. Dongfeng are currently in third place after they fought their way metre by metre to get ahead of Alvimedica and have closed back to 1nm of MAPFRE.
So the dice have been rolled, and the northerners and southerners are fixed in their lanes. Various experts routing predictions put the Dutch Brunel and the Girls on SCA finishing almost a day ahead – even though they will sail hundred of miles further, they should be able to descend to the Equator so much faster that they will go around the outside and get there first. But its still over 4,000 miles, thats France to Brazil for the Europeans – surely its too early to believe what a computer programme weather prediction spews out? Especially with a wide band of crazy Doldrums zone to cross.
For now, it is a hard and super close battle between the 4 boats in the south, and whilst Abu Dhabi has had the upper hand, the determined men on Dongfeng have fought their way metre by metre ahead of Alvimedica during the day today, and have closed back to 2 miles of Mapfre. The battle for the 3rd podium place will be hot all the way south, even if the northerners get their way. The conditions are pretty fast, and very wet, sailing in 20 or so knots of wind, fully powered up at 70 degrees or so angle to the wind direction. So its faster than going upwind, but at least as wet with plenty of the salty stuff hurling itself over and down the deck. Along with flying fish – quite a hazard for the crew on deck if they hit you face on!
All is good on board, the guys moral restoring as they get over what they felt was a bit of a lack of luck versus the boats around them off the Philippines, and their disappointment to have not followed their gut feelings and taken the same option as Brunel. What is now clear is that because both the Dutch and SCA were at the back of the fleet and out of AIS range, there was no way for Charles to see they had tacked until the position report 6 hours later. If they had known Brunel had gone they might just have followed them. Hindsight is a wonderful thing!
So right now the race is about getting to the front of this cosy foursome, metre by metre, as the southerly fleet smash their way south towards the Equator for the 3rd time in this race.
Just 10nm separate the foursome but it is much more than a four day ‘drag race’ for Erwan Israel.
“It’s never a straight line…taking the straight line and shortest distance is a compromise, there are still small options like to go out farther offshore for more wind that make a difference…” – Erwan Israel
Wolf has also had a chance to recover after taking a bit of bruising during the tough upwind phase. “The first 3 days were really tough, the big waves made people ‘fly’ when they are not ready to deal with that. All of us experienced different levels of seasickness. I’m ok, I kept eating seasick pills and try not to stay in the cabin. I didn’t eat a proper meal in those few days. You saw I fell down once in the video, but actually I fell down 3 times. It wasn’t a big deal. We are men in the ocean, we are used to that already. However, to be honest it does hurt when I open my mouth to eat!”