Melbourne to Osaka - Shaking off the Doldrums, easier for some

2013 Melbourne to Osaka
Melbourne Osaka Cup
In the Melbourne to Osaka Yacht Race, while our Japanese friends on Southern Cross remain in the clutches of the Solomon Sea at 6°South and Kiss Goodbye to MS battles light and variable conditions 130nm south of the equator, the rest of the fleet have crossed to the northern hemisphere, have celebrated appropriately and are eagerly looking to reach those north east trade-winds.

Sailing legend and ORCV weather guru Robin Hewitt explains the features of this weather system and what the yachts can expect as they travel further north.

'The north-east trade winds zone is characterized by a steady flow of wind in a roughly steady direction. These winds are caused by out-flowing air from the sub-tropical ridge of high pressure systems usually situated about 30 degrees latitude north or south and migrating according to the season. The air from the highs travels towards the uplift from the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) which in turn travels in the very upper atmosphere toward the poles until descending as high pressure systems and thus forming a vertical circulation.

The cloud formation in the trades is quite different usually having a base of about 1km height and seldom above 10 km. These cumulus clouds are vertical or have a ‘lean’ according to the strength of the trade winds. They are capped in height due to the descending air of the highs and may be quite patterned. With the consistent winds of the trades, we can expect the yachts to make rapid progress until they again meet calms being the center of high pressure systems. Some differences can be expected due to just where their path and the highs appear.

Melbourne to Osaka 2013 - Weather system Robin Hewitt
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Following the calms they will again be in a variable westerlies region similar to when leaving Melbourne and some strong winds are possible. As shown in this weather map, large areas of fog may also provide some interesting experiences,' said Robin Hewitt.

The Farr 38 Escapade who left Portsea on 17th April, still holds the lead and is currently 225nm east of Guam. Owner/skipper Robert Bradley was in a very relaxed mood as he described their current conditions. 'It's a lovely starry night outside at last. For at least two weeks now all we have had all day and night is clouds, at least the rain squalls stopped about 36 hours ago. Escapade continues to hum along, she is really in the zone at the moment - 15 knots right on the beam, full main and number two, now trimmed for reaching, boat speed high sevens and with a knot of current the SOG is sitting on 8.5 and occasionally touching nine.

The sea state has eased a bit as the wind has dropped from 20 to 15 so Escapade is able to glide along more smoothly and catches the occasional wave and accelerates to 8+ through the water. Joey has completely abandoned the 'I shouldn't have a drink, we're racing' philosophy and tonight it was 'we've overtaken the sun, is that a reason for a round of rum?' No argument from the skipper!

Current plan sees us heading north of Guam chasing a narrow ribbon of wind then straight at Osaka. Our eyes are currently on Optimus Prime and the progress they are making so we are staying on our toes and trying to make every watch a good one. Nothing else to report, no dumb birds, no birds at all, no mosquitos either, no dolphins, no whales, no ships, no islands ... just endless sea and waves. There is a new moon tonight.'

Optimus Prime, aka 'The Freight Train' has had a very successful week, reducing her distance to destination by 1350nm in the past seven days. They are still making up for a brief stopover in Sydney to repair their forestay but the strategy to sail east of the Solomons has paid off with better wind pressure than those who took the rhumb line and she now has her sights on Escapade who is 400nm ahead. Father and son team Dan and Trevor Taylor on the Marten 49 are giving it their all for the glory to be first to the finish, but are not discounting their competitors behind and to the east. 'Things are tightening up. The Hounds are on the move, Gusto and Funnel Web may be let off the chain any minute now and Escapade is finally under eight knots! Full Main, JT and GS. We've run out of winches, it's a spider web of rope on board.'

The Hounds, the group of four who have taken the middle course through the Solomons, are still within 140nm of each other with Cadibarra 8 six nm ahead of Wasabi, Spirit of Downunder 40nms behind and Turbulence hanging on to their skirts. The close racing is keeping them all focused to make the most of every opportunity and Spirit of Downunder retains the IRC and the Performance handicap crowns at this stage of the race.

Funnelweb reported that they are struggling with the doldrums still but had a brief distraction this morning when a fishing boat passed by and put a launch into the water to come over to say 'hello' and have a chat. Quite a surreal experience to have visitors after sailing two handed for so long, in such a remote location with 360° water views.

The biggest boat in the fleet, the Open 66 Gusto reported she had 'passed the Equator and is off the leash!' Owner/skipper Brian Pattinson messaged through, 'Wahooo. Got wind and past the Equator. Rum and Weatbix for brekky. Great to get going again. Still lots of storms. Having fun. Cheers. Look out 'Escapee' and 'Freight Train', after some slow progress in the doldrums for the past few days, 'The Big G' is on the move.'

Kiss Goodbye to MS took a track through the Solomon Islands after making repairs to their auto helm which now sees her in a different wind pattern. Tony Warren will need to use all his experience from previous Osaka races in these conditions to crab his way north before being rewarded by the tradewinds.

Southern Cross are almost out of the Solomon Sea however it appears there are light and variable conditions to contend with all the way to the equator to challenge the Japanese crew, Yasu and Masa.

An estimate of finish times, based on the last five position reports, is given below.

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Start Time

Last Update


VMG* (Knots)

Estimated Finish Time (EST)



17/03/2013 13:00

13/04/2013 22:00



22/04/2013 1:41



24/03/2013 10:30

13/04/2013 22:00



22/04/2013 6:51


Cadibarra 8

24/03/2013 10:30

13/04/2013 22:00



22/04/2013 12:22


Optimus Prime

24/03/2013 10:30

13/04/2013 22:00



22/04/2013 13:07


Spirit Of Downunder

24/03/2013 10:30

13/04/2013 22:00



22/04/2013 17:15



20/03/2013 14:30

13/04/2013 22:01



25/04/2013 21:21



28/03/2013 4:00

13/04/2013 18:00



28/04/2013 9:09



24/03/2013 10:30

13/04/2013 20:00



2/05/2013 22:35


Kiss Goodbye To Ms

24/03/2013 10:30

13/04/2013 22:00



4/05/2013 17:12


Southern Cross

17/03/2013 13:00

13/04/2013 22:00



16/05/2013 15:15

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Good luck to all for the next stage of the race.