Some dramatic moves over the past eight hours have seen the lead change in the Volvo Ocean Race, and breakaway group form as two of the boats made a move north, sailing away from their destination.
Although Camper is being called as race leader by the Volvo Ocean Race, using their snap-shot of current positions, that system does not see projected finishing times, and just calls the lead for those who are closest to Auckland in terms of distance.
Sail-World using the course routing function of Predictwind.com has run optimised tracks for each of the competitors, heading to a virtual mark, approximately nine days down the track from their current position - and utilsing the maximum extent of available wind data from two feeds, which are refined by Predictwind.
Having seen Puma Ocean racing make big gains on the fleet, having hit a patch of strong winds - about double that of the rest of the fleet, two competitors, Groupama and Abu Dhabi turned north as well, while previous race leader Camper, continued to head more east. Team Sanya has followed the other two in the group moving north, while Camper continues to move east, but not south.
Telefonica, the overall race leader, previously in fifth position on the VOR system has turned south, and was elevated to second overall by the Volvo Ocean Race reports, which showed Camper as enjoying a substantial lead, and the VOR snap-shot position system.
Volvo Ocean Race - Leg 4 Day 5 at 1925 UTC. Abu Dhabi and Groupama move north, Camper heads east, Telefonica heads south and Puma closes on the body of the fleet. - PredictWind.com
Predictwind's course projection for the lead boats (Groupama, Abu Dhabi and Camper) is that they still need to head east for about three or four days before being able to make serious gains to the south, and don't really settle into the trade winds for a couple of days after that.
In the meantime winds in the Philippine Sea will continue to shift and collapse, as the fleet seems to be stuck in the only light air cell in the area.
The short story is that the first three boats overall - Groupama, Abu Dhabi and Camper - look to have established a break east and have the others covered. It is all about the lateral separation between the boats (determining which weather system they are able to latch onto), and the direction they are taking (North, East or South) at this stage, rather than their radius distance from Auckland. Its a game of long term strategy rather than short term gains.
The only question that really remains is whether Telefonica will be able to cut the corner on the fleet by heading south early as she has done, and can tip toe her way over into the tradewinds area before heading south for Auckland.
Puma's magic run seems to have ended but she has closed on the fleet, and is in a much stronger position than she appeared 24 hours ago. The strong breeze that she enjoyed as run out, maybe as she opted to move too far to the south to early.
Ironically if the paths of the leg leader, Groupama, and Puma continue on their current projection, then Groupama will cross ahead of Puma at some point in the next day. That's quite a turnaround for the US entry, who looked to be headed for a sushi restaurant on the Japanese coast just a day or so ago.
by Richard Gladwell
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8:08 PM Sat 25 Feb 2012GMT
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