Velux 5 Oceans – For ocean sprint four tactics has been deemed the name of the game. This leg of the race is a 5,700-mile slog north from Punta del Este in Uruguay to Charleston on the east coast of the United States of America. At almost the same time as the fleet leaves Punta del Este on March 27 the skippers will face their first challenge of ocean sprint four – the St Helena High.
A huge, continually morphing area of high pressure, the St Helena High is a very difficult beast to get past. It drifts across the South Atlantic with very little rhyme or reason to its direction or strength. Skippers who play the weather systems cleverly will benefit from an early lead as the fleet races north. Those who don’t could find themselves battling to catch up even in the beginning stages of the leg.
Once out of the way of the St Helena High they will start to pick up the south-easterly tradewinds which will provide perfect sailing conditions – for a while. Before too long the fleet will have to tackle the inter-tropical convergence zone, better known as the Doldrums. Lying a few hundred miles either side of the Equator but always moving, the Doldrums are characterized by frustrating calms and unpredictable squalls.
Once across the Equator the fleet will then pick up the north easterly tradewinds allowing the skippers to take a relatively direct course towards Charleston. The closer to land the fleet sail, the more they will be affected by local currents that sweep up the east coast.
Unlike the last two ocean sprints which have been full-on downwind racing in big seas, the majority of ocean sprint four will be upwind sailing through flatter waters. With tactical decisions making the difference between positions the skippers must constantly look ahead and plan for the ever-changing weather patterns. The challenge is a different one but no less tough. The first yacht is expected to complete this grueling ocean sprint in around 26 days.
Webchats for Brad Van Liew, Derek Hatfield and Chris Stanmore-Major will be in English. Gutek’s webchat will take place in Polish for the first 20 minutes then in English for the last ten minutes. The 30-minute webchats will be hosted here
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