Overnight Ian Walker reported getting ahead of Charles Caudrelier’s Dongfeng only to have Mother Nature take it all back again, getting caught under a rain cloud in light winds. Abu Dhabi has since been springing in and out like they are attached by elastic with Dongfeng.
Chinese boat now leads, stretching it to the most it’s been in the last 12 hours – 3.5 nautical miles.
For the last 150 nm Abu Dhabi and Dongfeng have sailed almost exactly the same line, but at 06:00 UTC Abu Dhabi looks to have got some separation to the east. Realistically, if they stick directly behind Dongfeng, it will be very hard to catch them up.
Overtaking would be very unlikely entering into a lighter wind area in the same place, so one option whilst being wary of opening yourself up to attack from behind is to try to enter the lighter winds surrounding Auckland in a slightly different place to come in on a different angle with different sails.
Time will tell but with the boats on AIS, they will be keeping a constant eye on each other! At the time of writing it looked like Abu Dhabi had just a slight edge on boat speed over Dongfeng but both boats have extended a reasonably comfortable lead over MAPFRE who are followed 15nm back from there by Alvimedica.
Looking at the most recent grib files, the wind looks reasonably constant until just before the fleet reaches the coastline of New Zealand. Although reports from the boats have described it as fickle and Alvimedica had made a decisive move to the west – they must be lining up for some new wind and possibly an attack on MAPFRE.