After several days of playing off one cloud against another in search of a useful breeze, the Volvo Ocean Race fleet looks set to endure those conditions for another day or so.
However the routing is now starting to settle down, and the highway to the finish of Leg 6 in Auckland is becoming obvious.
The boats that should be favoured are those in the SW corner of the fleet, with the fastest route passing to the west of New Caledonia and then sailing down the central Tasman Sea, almost equidistant between Australia and New Zealand before making a turn to port and lining up for North Cape and the final miles down the Northland coast.
While the routing is still unreliable looking at just the two feeds supplied by Volvo Ocean Race, it does become more definitive considering the four feeds used by Predictwind.com.
Depending on which boat is plotted two of the feeds GFS and ECMWF (used by the Volvo OR boats) show the course to the west of New Caledonia – the cost of getting better and faster sailing angles is that the boats will have to sail and additional 250-300nm more than the Great Circle Route. GFS and ECMWF have so far been the more accurate predictor of the four feeds. However when all four start pointing in the same direction then the trend becomes rather moe compelling.
That was the case with SHK Scallywag’s breakaway move six and a half days from the finish of Leg 4 when all four feeds pointed to the same option and stayed that way for 12-24 hours.
The other issue that always comes into play on the leg into Auckland from Hong Kong/China is whether they will run out of food. Being now on Day 14 of the race and with fives and a half to six and a half days left to run. On video from the boats the question of how many days food is on board – with some having 20 days food and the others 22 days.
A key to the time taken to arrive in Auckland will be how long the boats languish in the light airs created by the passage of Cyclone Gita which has now cleared New Zealand. That could be another 24hours or so – and in the meantime, the crews will be cognizant of where they wish to wind up in 24-36hours time but will employ inshore racing tactics and strategy to get their positioning correct.
by Richard Gladwell, Sail-World.com