Sail-World.com : Volvo Ocean Race - Groupama's paradoxical effect
Volvo Ocean Race - Groupama's paradoxical effect
The Volvo Ocean Race fleet have been blocked by a front that has been taking it’s time to crumble over the past three days and it now appears that there may be a slight opening in the next 24 hours. It is positioned to the South where Groupama 4 is making headway and as such, a new race start may take place after a week at sea!
It's not over yet and it may not be possible before the weekend! Indeed the situation remains the same in the Indian Ocean, with a depression coming in from the Atlantic via the West, a Mascareignes High to the East and a front in the middle of which a thalweg has been forming an impassable barrier for the past three days, with the wind unable to establish itself. It's impossible to get past this system, which is practically moving at the same average speed as the six competitors. Fortunately, this associated cloud mass is gradually dissipating, from the South initially, at around 38° South...
It's at just this latitude that Franck Cammas and his men have been diving along since midnight on Thursday after linking back onto the trajectory of the New Zealanders on Camper and the Americans on Puma. However, the Anglo-Saxons don't have the culture of the long-term strategy and are still favouring the slightest hint of tactical risk-taking by remaining in contact rather than gaining some separation from each other as the French are used to doing in oceanic races.
As such, the three crews furthest North are now plunging towards the two VO-70s, which have been sailing virtually within sight of each other since everyone has pretty much established now that there's no solution to the North.
Paradoxically, the standing indicates that those furthest North are the leaders, because they're closer to the reference point taken by the Volvo Ocean Race organisation, offshore of Madagascar, whilst on the water the leading protagonists look to be Camper (44°21) followed by Groupama 4 (44°17 East) and Puma (44°11 East).
If all goes to plan, the position switch is likely to take place overnight tonight, prior to sunrise local time. According to the grib files, Groupama 4 is in a good position to finally get through the barrier, followed by Camper and Puma. However, there probably won't be much difference between these three boats, though the separation between them and the other three boats could be significant, with the potential of them losing several dozen miles in a matter of hours!
Another element which shouldn't be ignored over the medium term is the rotation of the Trade winds from the North, to the North-East and then to the East as they close on Madagascar. As any good tactician knows, when the wind veers, it is favourable to position yourself as far to the right as possible to benefit from the shift. The ability to respond quickly due to being the furthest South, should therefore bear fruit when the fleet have to edge their way along the Mascareignes High as far as around 50° East, before tacking and climbing due North towards Madagascar.
Furthermore, positioning yourself to windward of the fleet, and hence as far East as possible when all the fleet climb North, would seem even more beneficial as a new weather phenomenon is forming offshore of the large African island...
In any case, though the strategy adopted by Franck Cammas and his men might seem obscure for some, it does have two advantages: first of all the ability to pull of a coup which is less likely with the conservative Anglo-Saxon sailing, and secondly the ability to go on feeling as the weather situation takes more concrete form.
The trajectory yesterday afternoon is a prime example of this: Groupama 4 coming back into contact with the New Zealanders and the Americans to limit tactical risk, before switching back to her offensive strategy towards the South once the exit through the front finally half opens, without having to worry about her rivals and their short-term strategies. Indeed bookies know all too well that when you back a horse both ways, you never win...
Position report at 1300 UTC
2. Abu Dhabi 27 miles from the leader
3. Sanya 41 miles from the leader
4. Puma 67 miles from the leader
5. Camper 74 miles from the leader
6. Groupama 4 129 miles from the leader
Volvo Ocean Race website
by Vincent Borde
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8:38 PM Fri 16 Dec 2011 GMT
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