Latest updates from the various onboard scribes on the last plays of Leg 3, with the finish in Melbourne currently (as of 2030hrs UTC Friday, 22 December 2017) expected to be in 4-5 days time.
18hrs ago (posting time 2030hrs UTC Friday, 22 December 2017) OBR update from Jeremie Lecaudey onboard Turn the Tide on Plastic:
On the Volvo Ocean Race, during the last few days of a leg, the ETA becomes not only a topic but a motivation for the team to arrive. Sailor of all times or newbie on board, it doesn’t matter how hardcore you are, how much you love the ocean and sailing on it, earth is like a call for good food, shower time and a steady bed.
The navigator spends his entire day trying to make that number go lower. CEP, GFS, Arpege, in order the European, American and French forecast models give the projected weather for the next few days. Obviously the more we project in the future, the less efficient the probabilities become. Therefore Nicolas Lunven on our boat cross-checks all the forecast previsions to get an average idea of what’s to come. So basically Nico chooses a route he likes together with Dee depending on the projected forecast, and off we go trying to match the previsions.
Now the reality is, that it also depends on how the boat performs depending on the conditions. Each routing is calculated depending on the way the boat will match the polar percentage: 100 if we sail to the max capabilities of the boat. In order to be more accurate, the navigator will also project at 95 and 90 because sailors aren’t robots, and they will eventually get tired, make mistakes and also because unfortunately, weather forecast isn’t an exact science and the wind can be different than the projection.
As an example, two days ago one routing gave us an ETA of 6 days and another nine days. How can you gain or lose three days? Simple really, if you wait for a high pressure to catch up with you and eventually like AkzoNobel is experiencing at the minute, you end up in close to no wind for a few days. Now if you stay in the low pressure, you will follow her as long as you can. If you’re in the low pressure like the rest of the fleet, you try to stay where there is the most wind, depending on your routing. Currently Dongfeng and Mapfre are the kings at this game. Think of a wheel spinning and you want to stay ahead of the wheel. Otherwise, you get swooshed and dried.
Getting back to reality, and to give you an idea of what we’re looking at, our current ETA to the entrance of Melbourne’s bay are 3d21h at 100, 3d23h at 95, 4d04h at 90. So Christmas on the boat, two days of shaking around in the cold, two days of lighter winds and Australia warming us up as we approach.
18 hours ago Latest from onboard MAPFRE:
We can’t believe we have finally gibed towards North, towards Melbourne!
Every nm we do now is towards warmer waters and warmer weather. We can’t wait to be honest. The last two nights have been the coldest of the trip for sure and added to being so tired starts being a hard job, anyway as I said we are heading North so is all good.
Wind is over 30 knots most of the times and we have a squall after squall, but we are managing to keep the boat safe and fast. Last night we had a few moments… big squalls over 40 knots but all went well.
The last position reports have been very good for us, and we have a good lead even if Dongfeng has gone stealth on this last one, Juan analyses their options anyway and we have a guess where they can be. We have to wait now for two more reports to find out more – that’s why we keep going as fast as we can.
All good on board, people healthy and fit, we can’t wait to get to Melbourne.
Best regards from MAPFRE Xabi
20 hours ago Update from onboard Turn the Tide on Plastic:
So the gybe off has begun. Two days ago it looked like we would be gybing along the whole ice exclusion zone for 750 miles. Luckily the wind helped, and we are down to just 150 miles before we are clear to head south and east in some good strong breeze too.
It is going to be wet, cold and windy but it does mean we should arrive for the Boxing Day Christmas leftovers that the leaders couldn’t finish arriving on Christmas Day!
We hope so, as we are chasing hard.
Dee and Team TTTOP
21 hours ago Report from onboard Team Brunel:
Think that some of the crew start counting down the hours for getting out of this place. Did it, done and seen it by now:-)
Of course, we had our fair share of big breeze, but it hasn’t been extremely cold, they have to wait until the leg the Horn. It is weird to see that Dongfeng is losing so many miles against MAPFRE, did they bust maybe something as well, or hopefully for them did they just miss the train for the first time as well a bit?
We now don’t have to fear anymore directly for the ice gates, as they bend nearly south from here on. They bring an enormous stress factor into the race, as you can’t sail through the imaginary line. If you do so, first you have to return to where you sailed through the line, meaning going back with all the drama as such, dropping sail, getting a small jib up and beat back, plus on top of that you will get a points penalty, to be decided by the jury. Not only stress for navigator and skipper, but sleep deprivation to the crew in general.
Like this afternoon, the whole crew was on standby for hours when we sailed parallel to this imaginary line within a distance of several hundred metres. If the breeze shifts you get too close and have to gybe, so the off-watch crew members were sitting downstairs fully kitted up to be ready to go on deck.
We made it without gybing but missed again 3 hours sleep. But it doesn’t matter – soon we can catch up on this lying in a real bed 🙂
Dec 21 2017 12:15 PM Update from Turn the Tide on Plastic:
Another day and another version of the weather develops before us. It is not looking as bleak as it was before and this is giving us hope.
We had three position reports in a row that were really bad, and morale took a beating. I am a glass half full person, and even I struggled with this one.
However, finally, we have had some wind that the others around us have not had and are making progress in the right direction for a change, and it feels great.
We also finally have weather files that are taking less days to get to Melbourne for the first time in several days. No matter where we were or how fast we were sailing everything was taking nine days, for ages this was the case. Now we have broken this barrier and some options if we can keep up with the routing are quite positive.
The temperature is properly cold now though. Sea temperatures are low and air temperatures the same, so wind chill bites into exposed flesh fast. It is set to get colder as we need to head south in a southerly wind before we get to hit the defrost button and head north again on the 23rd December. A nice little present from the South before we leave it for a while.
Dee and Team TTTOP
Dec 21 2017 6:13 AM From onboard Team Brunel:
You nearly have forgotten that sailing can be a very comfortable way to travel from A to B, but on a day like today it clearly is. Not much wind in our minds, although the local club racer would still think twice before heading out. As the motion is less rough also good for picking up sleep. It is nearly impossible to wake some people up. The foghorn might have to get out of the bag to make it happen.
The really good news was that Anni was on deck for two hours, just sitting, but at least some fresh air and not feeling constraint laying in her bunk, a big mental boost for her.
Also, very good news is that we are hanging onto Vestas, we would have expected to be dropped fast as they always should have more breeze, but we hang amazingly well. The good thing is that we worked well south of them, and hope we get a tiny bit of extra breeze what you see so often down here. It doesn’t really show on the maps, but 9 out of 10 times it is the case. 20 miles doesn’t sound a lot, but if you say 40 km, you all of sudden realise it is fair big distance. You could call your mom who is living 40 km away from you, and she says we have a nice breeze, the sun is shining, while when you look out of the window, and it is raining and zip breeze. This just to put the weather in perspective.
Thinking of our Argentinian bowman Juanpa. Today should be the day that he becomes for the first time a dad. Hope the timing is right on, so that he has a week with his child and can support his wife before joining us in Melbourne.
Who said the life of a yachtie is easy?
Dec 20 2017 7:55 PM Report from onboard MAPFRE:
We now continue skirting the northern part of the ice exclusion zone, on starboard jibe downwind with a 20 knot SW wind. A frontal system passed last night, causing the NW wind quickly shifted west south-west, then SW. Conditions are shiftier and puffier, with some isolated squalls, but we do enjoy a nice swell helping to push the boat forward with very nice surfs.
Looking ahead we expect to throw a few jibes again later today and night, by the eastern portion of this northern exclusion zone line. After that, we will be free to decide and set our course towards Melbourne. It currently looks the rest of the trip to be reasonably fast, with some fair winds all the way to the Melbourne entrance.
On board everything is good, chipping along with our normal routines and watch systems, and well used to the waves washing the deck and constant spray as the normality on deck.
Dec 20 2017 1:30 PM Update from Simon Fisher onboard Vestas 11th Hour Racing
It is hard to imagine that we are already over halfway through this leg both in terms of miles and time. Not least because I think at this stage I have fully lost track of time itself.
On the one hand, it feels like the leg only started a short time ago and on the other Cape Town seems but a distant memory as racing and the challenges of this leg have dominated my thoughts over the past few days. Be it the bad weather getting out of the start, the big low pressure to contend with or working our way round the ice gate there has always been something to occupy the mind and focus the energy.
It has been somewhat enjoyable that these last couple of days have been occupied by sailing fast and enjoying the drag race. Having seen the fleet compress as we came north now, we are racing east again it is all stretching out once more. Brunel who was at one stage only 13 miles behind is again back to almost 30.
Gaining miles each sched on the boats behind is both comforting and rewarding as is pushing had on deck working to get every last bit of boat speed. With the wind and the sea state always changing, getting the most out of the boat sometimes requires finesse, gently taking the boat from wave to wave without ever slowing. Other times it is more about aggression, forcing the boat through the sea state and hanging hard onto the wheel to force it onto course. This morning it is more of the latter as with each acceleration you have to batter your way through the wave in front. The squally wind that is now coming from the south-west also forces you to be punchy and sail high and fast to stay on course, but big gusts can quickly unseat you if you relax too much.
We are hoping that in the coming days we can consolidate our position with the boats behind us getting held back by the lighter air as the High pressure catches them. However, this also means that the two red boats in front have extended on us once again.
We still have our sights on them, but for now, we will have to be patient. Hopefully, we will get another opportunity to close them down in the coming days.
Cheers, Si Fi.
by Various on board scribes