by Amory Ross
For Volvo Ocean Race competitors Puma Ocean Racing, the brutal slamming conditions of the South China Sea are tiring and taking a toll. From onboard Puma, MCM Amory Ross writes:
Kelvin Harrap on the helm in lighter morning winds; the rest of the watch starts moving sails further to trim the bow down. PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG during leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Sanya, China to Auckland, New Zealand
'The realities of the coming complications are setting in. Our predicted 18-day leg has turned into a 20-day one, maybe even 21 or 22; it is hard to know as the models keep changing. We’ve started setting food aside and are mindful of our valuable resources like propane and toilet paper. Yesterday’s lunch was recycled, and with a little hot water became yesterday’s dinner, too. It’s only Day 3, so that was a bit of a shock!
'A lengthy detour around the top of Taiwan is very much an option to consider at the moment, with forecasts for the strait between its southern tip and the Philippines looking light and doldrumsie. It’s not a question of whether we continue north or not – both routes take us that direction – but when and where we choose to sail it, and choosing the option that gets us east the fastest.
Sun makes its first appearance of the leg so far, just in time to watch it disappear over the horizon. PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG during leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Sanya, China to Auckland, New Zealand
'If we go north now and leave Taiwan to starboard, we’ll likely have an easier time getting east once up there. But we would risk strong adverse currents and of course the high level of commitment it requires; there’s no 'bailing out' if we change our mind… If we choose the straits and aim for the Philippines, our options remain open. Though the light forecast is uncertain, it is probably the less risky option and we could well have a chance at reconnecting with the fleet in a compression scenario. Conversely, we could get stuck – again – and have a difficult time getting out of there while the rest of the guys sail away in a different breeze.
'This is a crucial moment in the leg and there’s obviously a lot at stake. It has already been a busy day of decision-making, but I’d be surprised to see us be anything but conservative. It appears like all of the other boats have chosen the Philippines route, but anything can happen in the next day and a half. At least we don’t have to worry about losing the lead!'
Puma Ocean Racing website