Volvo Ocean Race: Dongfeng Race Team in the wind shadow
Read our OBR, Sam Greenfield’s take on the stress levels at the chart tables for Charles in his blog here
Charles Caudrelier’s blog this morning sums up the dominant factor on the water right now “One thing that is obsessing me at the moment is how far off India should we pass – an almost impossible decision.” Wind shadows can extends dozens of miles offshore from a mountainous area, sucking in boats that dare to go too close and potentially keeping them there for many hours, even days. Charles confirms “The island of Sri Lanka is more than 2000 metres high, and creates a wind shadow to its south of more than 200km…we can head south but we’ll sail many more miles, and there isn’t much wind in the south either. This must be the question all the navigators are asking themselves over the past few days, but soon we all have to make the decision.”
Kevin Escoffier adds “the other issue is that we have to position ourselves for the upwind conditions after the corner, so the further south we go, the worse the angle will be. After giving our all for a week now to gain a metre here and there, this wind shadow could lose you 100 miles if you are unlucky. Well I guess that is also sailing sometimes…”.
In the past few hours, having steered a course more to the north of Dongfeng over the past few days, both Abu Dhabi’s Azzam and Brunel have suddenly changed course and headed further south to, and then beyond, Dongfeng’s line – did they just not want to take a risk, or have they come to their own conclusion about the route to take? For Charles, and the determined men of Dongfeng, its a key moment in the race, but one much just be a question of luck – “This could be the key to winning this leg and unfortunately one probably needs more luck than skill to get it right. We don’t like that…”. Lets just hope that the Dong Feng – the east wind that brings freshness and energy – will bring our guys the luck they maybe need as they round the bottom of India and Sri Lanka. Whilst the fleet passed the 3000 miles to mark today, the wind shadow could either turn in to a horror movie or a decisive winning decision, for each of the teams.
Meanwhile there have been a flurry of emails and comms back and forth with Dongfeng, as the guys have been experiencing an unusual amount of fuel burn with one of the batteries not charging properly. The suppliers Mastervolt, shore team, and team onboard are working hard to solve the problem. With a fixed amount of fuel onboard and another 3000 miles to go, this is upping the stress levels onboard. Keeping the boats functioning at 100% is all part of ocean racing – and they are many complex systems onboard the Volvo Ocean 65. You don’t hear about all the problems the teams have to solve, but there isn’t a team that doesn’t have its challenges on each leg.
If you’ve noticed some big and sudden changes in Distance to Leader (DTL) in the past 24 hours, its worth pointing out its not actually a sudden burst of speed of one of the boats – its more that the way the distances are calculated, at some point the system has to change to where its measuring. On this part of the course there is a waypoint set south of India, and another southern point of Sri Lanka. Depending on where you measure to, you get quite different numbers according to who is south or north…this will become much simpler once they are pointing at Indonesia and the entrance to the Malacca Straits.