Volvo Ocean Race - Groupama gain precious miles
by Franck Cammas on 29 May 2012
Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12 fleet is racking up some great speeds again, with the arrival of a solid south-westerly breeze ahead of a front, and will be able to devour the next 1,000 miles in less than 48 hours! Behind the Emirati leader, the chasing group has lined itself up along the same longitude, bound for the North of the Azores. These conditions are pretty favourable for Franck Cammas and his men, who have gained some precious miles on the Spanish.
Groupama Sailing Team during leg 7 - Day 8, Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12 Yann Riou/Groupama Sailing Team © /Volvo Ocean Race http://www.cammas-groupama.com/
They're off! At last. Indeed, what promised to be a high speed dash across the Atlantic hasn't quite panned out like that: in fact the fleet has covered just 2,200 miles in eight days, which equates to an average speed of barely any more than 11 knots… However, the fleet is set to make up its deficit, at least until Wednesday evening, as the end of this important seventh leg could well upset the hierarchy over the last 24 hours. However, for the time being, they're planing on virtually flat seas, in a solid south-westerly breeze of around twenty knots.
To windward of the fleet accompanied by the Spanish, who are sailing within sight of them, the crew of Groupama 4 are slowly but surely managing to reposition themselves in relation to the New Zealanders and the Chinese, who are a little less at ease in this lively close reach. Leading the fleet, Abu Dhabi has been losing miles on every watch, as she's situated further ahead of the front, which is rolling down from Labrador. Indeed the south-westerly breeze is steadier closer to the front, which is where the five pursuers are positioned, virtually along the same line from North-South. As such, a drag race awaits the crews for the next 48 hours, until after the Azores, which the VO-70s should leave 200 miles to their South.
It's going to be vitally important that the crews don't ease off the pace as the front is shifting across towards Europe at the same speed as the boats: getting caught up by it translates as ending up in a westerly breeze and hence linking together a series of gybes without the ability to set a direct course to Lisbon. If everything goes to plan, it's just after the longitude of San Miguel that the rhythm will ease off. Indeed the depression which will merge with this propelling front near the finish, will bend around to the North, leaving the fleet floundering…
The high pressure, which is now stretching out from Scotland to the West Indies, via the Canaries, will form a barrier of light winds, which will have to be traversed on Wednesday evening and for now there's not really any way in to tackle this final obstacle. As such, there will likely be a hundred difficult miles for the whole fleet to negotiate, so there will probably be some serious bunching up of the fleet with just a handful of miles between them. The Emirati leader will be the first to be ensnared in these calm conditions and their pursuers will have the advantage of being able to witness how this first transition is panning out before they too have to tackle it.
Beyond these calm conditions, the wind will shift round to the NNE along the Spanish coast, building in a Portuguese tradewind system to reach a lively twenty knots: the first to escape the high pressure trap will stand a good chance of making their mark in Lisbon. In any case, Tuesday is likely to enable all the crews to far exceed 500 miles in 24 hours and Groupama 4 should be able to improve on her best time in the fourth leg when Franck Cammas and his men racked up a total of 522 miles…
Positions at 1300 UTC on 28/05/2012
1. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing – 1,304.0 miles from the finish
2. Puma – 63.2 miles astern of the leader
3. Camper – 83.1 miles astern of the leader
4. Team Sanya – 87.5 miles astern of the leader
5. Groupama 4 – 91.1 miles astern of the leader
6. Telefonica – 93.1 miles astern of the leader
Groupama Sailing Team website