After fast rides for a couple of days, the Volvo Ocean Race fleet leaders have to make some hard decisions to skirt a area of light air on Leg 6, before they get back into the Trade Winds for a three day run ahead of the onset of the Doldrums.
The fleet is still closely bunched with the first four boats covered by just 6.5nm and with MAPFRE and Dongfeng Racing being less than 1nm apart. Lasy report on the Volvo website had it that with the passage of a front, the wind has shifted to the north and the boats are on a tight reach in 18 to 25 knots of wind, making 20 to 25 knots of boatspeed. It’s not comfortable. But it’s fast.
Behind the lead group Team AkzoNobel and SHK Scallywag are closing down the lead, and that will happen dramatically as the leaders hit the patch of light airs.
Of course the challenge for the two tail-enders is to make a better run through the flat spot, and contain the lead.
In three-four days the race leaders will be in the Doldrums, which proved to be the undoing of many and the making of a few on Leg 4 as the boats exited the Doldrums, heading the other way
The route through the Doldrums appears to be a little easier for the passage south, but time will tell.
The routing function of Predictwind.com has the fleet taking 13-14 days to reach Auckland on February 24-25, 2018.
An eye will be kept on the passage of cyclones across the route of the Volvo fleet. Cyclone Gita will be well ahead of the fleet passing about a week before the race leaders. As yet no new cyclones appear to be forming.
When looking at the two routing diagrams, the boats only have access to two feeds, GFS and ECMWF, while Predictwind uses four feeds. The two VOR feeds are showing similar route recommendations, while the other two feeds are showing more radical course options – both in regard to the upcoming light airs spot and the route to Auckland.
Returning to the crucial part of Leg 4 when Scallywag made her break-out move, all four feeds showed the break-out was on – maybe if the boats could see that level of certainty there would be some different calls made. Certainly it is very fraught process to make navigational strategy decisions on the basis of just two feeds together with the fact that one or both can change abruptly in the course of just one update.
by Richard Gladwell, Sail-World.com/nz