by Amory Ross
Volvo Ocean Race, Day 7 of Leg 3. Amory Ross, MCM for Puma Ocean Racing powered by Berg, reports on the crew's progress:
Tom Addis looking to leeward for advancing weather. PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG during leg 3 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12
Today could be the make or break day of this leg. Several major weather features have helped in splitting the fleet, and we find ourselves in a position that could see us go either way.
There are so many variables at work, so many unpredictable factors, that even the positive developments of the last 18 hours might prove irrelevant. We have shipping lanes, fishing boats, nets, floating debris, currents, winds, squalls, and last but not least: exclusion zones, to avoid. Between where we are now, and where we’ll be when we leave the Straits near Singapore, it’s a race course full of unexpected hazards.
PUMA, Groupama, and Telefonica all reunite in the Malacca Straits. PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG during leg 3 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Abu Dhabi, UAE to Sanya, China. (Credit: Amory Ross/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race)
But alas, the Malacca Strait has been kind to us – not exactly the case for Camper, Abu Dhabi, and Sanya, who chose the inshore route and are struggling to move at all. We’ve managed to stay offshore, more in the middle of the Straits, where winds have been steady and strong, and we’re clinging to Telefónica and Groupama, both in line off our bow. If the three of us can keep powering downwind until an active sea breeze fills in tonight, we could escape the Straits unscathed, but if we park up somewhere there could be a huge fleet compression and race re-start sometime overnight.
So today’s game is twofold: staying in touch with the leaders is paramount, but not at the cost of sailing ourselves out of 'our' racecourse. Tom has his own game plan and there are several gybes required to make our way east for the race exclusion zone; the timing of those gybes is critical. With shifty winds and ominous clouds we don’t want to overstand and go too far, or go too early and get sucked into incoming weather to the north.
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