Volvo Ocean Race second stage of leg three started at 0800 UTC today, 22nd January. The breeze was fairly light this morning with around five knots of ENE'ly breeze off the port of Malé (Maldives). As such the fleet is headed upwind for the initial 1,300-miles to the Straits of Malacca.
With smooth seas, hazy skies, an Easterly breeze of 5-6 knots, the start from Malé proved to be somewhat anaemic today and the New Zealanders on Camper quickly took the head of the fleet, which set off on a beat towards Indonesia on port tack. Under full mainsail and Code 0, the six VO70s left the heavenly Maldives for a very long four-day tack to the Indonesian archipelago, where weather conditions are forecast to be rather messy… After six hours of racing, the six crews are still sailing within sight of each other, with a slight lateral separation. Indeed the Spanish on Telefonica and the Americans on Puma are the furthest North, with Camper, Groupama 4 and Abu Dhabi remaining bunched, just a few hundred metres from each other, Sanya being the furthest South.
The sailing conditions aren't likely to change over the coming hours, with the ENE'ly wind continuing to reach around a dozen knots, enabling the fleet to rack up the equivalent boat speed. For the time being, everyone's sailing on a direct course, though the wind is set to back slightly to the North once the fleet is past the longitude of Sri Lanka. As such the six crews are likely to have to bend their course around to make for Pulau We, the North-West tip of Sumatra, in four days' time. As a result there aren't really any tactical options to be had over the coming hours and the boats have been on approximately the same heading since setting out from Malé. Slightly more at ease in the light airs, Camper is holding onto pole position, but has seen Puma to windward of her and Groupama 4 astern of her, whilst Telefonica appears to have dropped back a bit since early this afternoon. In this way, the first part of the course is shaping up to be a pure drag race, the outcome of which could go either way, so the racing could be a little monotonous until the fleet enters the Straits of Malacca.
3 Groupama 4
4 Team Sanya
5 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing Team
6 Telefonica Groupama Sailing Team website