Big storm brewing for Volvo fleet

Mikel Pasabant/Equipo Telefonica/Volvo Ocean Race. Rough weather helmets hanging up below decks on Telefonica Black

Wind speeds and boat speeds are in the 20 knot range this morning with the fleet bearing down fast towards Cape Town. Most of the fleet is posting 24-hour runs near 400 miles now, with Ericsson 3 the standout performer at 417 miles. That’s allowed Anders Lewander to close back to within 50 miles of the leaders on the 0700 position report.

But the story today is the weather forecast, for which the teams have been preparing their boats over the past few days. Different models are presenting different maximum wind strengths, but certainly gale force winds (above 34 knots) are on the cards for a sustained period. Near the centre of the system, winds could reach 40 knots. And in these powerful Volvo Open 70’s that’s plenty of breeze.

'There is a storm brewing – a very big one. If you lived along the coast in the south of the USA you’d be boarding up your windows and driving your car inland if you saw this storm coming your way,' wrote Matt Gregory, off Delta Lloyd. 'We are sailing towards it right now. The low pressure system to our south is going to merge with another low to the south east, unifying into a deep depression of 970 mb. This system will generate gale force winds. This storm is a gateway to hell.'

Delta Lloyd is about 100 miles to the north-northwest of the leaders and posted a 412 mile day over the 24 hours ending at 0700 this morning. Their position to the north means they’ll be sailing a shorter distance to Cape Town, and were they to get the wind at the same time as the others, they could make a gain on the leaderboard.

But the leaders still seem to be pursuing a strategy further south. PUMA retains its lead on Ericsson 4, with Green Dragon slightly behind and about 15 miles further south of Ken Read’s PUMA. Yesterday, Ericsson 4 actually crossed ahead of PUMA when they did a short gybe to the south, which Ken Read described.

'(They gybed) and crossed our bow by about 20 boat lengths earlier this afternoon ending an incredible run of being neck and neck sailing. They are heading south presumably looking for more wind. We kind of like where we are right now and decided to end our little boat on boat battle…at least for now. It is not easy predicting the weather situation right now, except for the fact that someone is going to turn the fans on pretty good for a few days.'

Stand by for a full explanation of the weather picture in Mark Chisnell’s TEN ZULU report, coming up at…10 Zulu (GMT).

Mikel Pasabant/Equipo Telefonica/Volvo Ocean Race. The crew of Telefonica Black check and repair sails in preperation for some strong wind to Cape Town, on leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race


On Board RUS -1 Kosatka Team Russia On a long voyage you become accustomed to your environment around you. The watch system shapes your days, four on four off four on four off. The freeze-dried food you eat tastes the same as it did the day before and the day before that. The clothes you put on all have the same logo as the one you put on yesterday and the one you put on the day before that. It all smells the same; it all has that musty damp sailing bag, man smell.

The definitive goal, to win the leg, to beat the opposition, to push hard to the horizon, never changes. The sensation of speed has become rhythmical as we muscle over the waves. Sharp pull to the left, hold, lunge forward, small smile to ones-self as in respect to the power under your feet and the faith we have in this craft. The bow fires down the wave face, judders as we accelerate up to the high twenties, force forward as we plow into the wave ahead and decelerate, sway right and climb the back of the wave with a kind 'I’m come through like it or not' feeling and into the circle again.

This is translated into different forces on your body whether you are in your bunk or hanging on the grinder handles or on the bow battling the spray and deck wash, or even gripping the media desks slippery shiny carbon edge as I try to tap out a Blog using only one hand. You have conversations with other crew all doing the same strange sway, bob and totter. Filmed by a fixed camera held stationary on the bulkhead people look like they are performing an exotic courtship dance. The waves fly by as if in an aquatic tube coming into a station with blue waves instead of billboards. Occasionally, you focus on the leeward wash as it grabs your eye and forces it to follow through to the water exiting the transom. The torrid waves that the bow eats up are spat out behind us, washed and ironed, cleaned and pressed -good enough for Neptune’s Sunday best. The shear power of these boats becomes an extension of the crew that operates them. One finger can cant tones of swinging lead to unleash yet more power.

The words you learned at school in a physics lesson and never meant that much to you now bring new meaning. Words like Kinetic, Potential, Inertia and Dynamic Loads all start represent something tangible on board. This trip is slowly stripping me back. I’m seeing things in a very uncluttered way, almost child like, without preconceptions, very mater-of-fact. Strangely, I’ve been waking up from heavy sleep in the fetal position curled round the beanbag with the sound of the ocean around me. On a long voyage you become accustomed to your environment around you, as if you have lived here forever.

TELEFÓNICA BLUE LEG ONE DAY 17 QFB: received 27.10.08 0525 GMT

2907 miles to go Cape Town. Half an hour later, 2912 miles to go to Cape Town!!!!! What is wrong with this picture?

Last night we had to sail the unfavoured gybe several times, as we were getting too close to the ridge of High pressure. So we actually had to sail away from Cape Town to stay in the breeze. It is impossible to describe what the feeling inside is, for myself or Sifi (Simon Fisher – navigator). It just hurts badly - just looking at the numbers and knowing that you sail a course 180 degrees away from the point you want go to, it just goes against your nature.

But we know that this was the right call. It is like driving in your car, and there is brick wall ahead of you. You keep going straight you know you are in trouble, as you will hit the wall and most likely come to a full stop. Better drive a couple of extra metres to get around the wall, and keep moving. So a relatively small loss compared with the other boats right now, but as the low pressure is arriving it is very likely that the rich are getting richer. For us it was damage control and to stay in touch with the leaders.

Yesterday evening was used for a full maintenance and servicing of all equipment. Patan (Pablo Arrarte/ESP) and Xabi (Xabier Fernandez/ESP), serviced all the winches again. Pepe (Ribes) was up the rig to check everything, and Laurent (Pages/FRA) did some work on the sails. Jordi (Calafat) has been working on the new design of our running spinnaker, for which the first panels will have to be cut tomorrow, so that it will be ready for use in the next leg. With only 24 sails for the entire race, you have to be careful, not to 'burn' too many sails in early days. So this new sail we had not planned for, as originally this sail was supposed to last until China. No real problem, we had some spare cards, (sails not planned yet) but we will have to re-think the strategy for building new sails.


Bouwe Bekking - skipper

For EDITORIAL USE only, please credit: Gabriele Olivo/Equipo Telefonica/Volvo Ocean Race Trimmer/Driver Pablo Arrate adjusting the leech line onboard Telefonica Blue during Leg One of the Volvo Ocean Race. The Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09 will be the 10th running of this ocean marathon. Starting from Alicante in Spain, on 4 October 2008, it will, for the first time, take in Cochin, India, Singapore and Qingdao, China before finishing in St Petersburg, Russia for the first time in the history o

For EDITORIAL USE only, please credit: Sander Pluijm/Team Delta Lloyd/Volvo Ocean Race Skipper Ger O'Rourke on the grinder, on leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race The Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09 will be the 10th running of this ocean marathon. Starting from Alicante in Spain, on 4 October 2008, it will, for the first time, take in Cochin, India, Singapore and Qingdao, China before finishing in St Petersburg, Russia for the first time in the history of the race. Spanning some 37,000 nautical miles,

Guo Chuan/Green Dragon Racing/Volvo Ocean Race. Driver/Trimmer Phil Harmer and Bowman Andrew McLean onboard Green Dragon, fighting for the lead during Leg 1.