by Amory Ross
Volvo Ocean Race, Day 12 of the second stage of Leg 4. Amory Ross, MCM for Puma Ocean Racing powered by Berg, reports on the crew's progress:
Brad Jackson at the helm. PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG during leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12
'It’s time to pick up the ruins [after the rough conditions]; we’re getting tidier and tidier,' Tony Mutter.
It took almost 10 days of sailing to get south of Sanya, our starting location, but ever since then we’ve been ticking away the miles to Auckland in a hurry. Even with today’s expected slow-down, we’ll likely cross the Equator again – the third time this race – sometime in the afternoon. Things will change from there as we approach the more technical stage of Leg 4, rife with islands, currents, and rapidly changing weather.
Our final week on the water will be a different scenario than the last one, more dependent on volatile and changing weather typically associated with the middle-regions of the planet. Equatorial conditions generate unpredictable squalls and areas of no wind – something we know too much about – and there will be a small 'doldrums' to cross later down the road to New Zealand.
When did we last encounter a doldrum? End of Leg 2, and nobody has forgotten. Groupama was leading, we were in second, Telefónica and Camper behind in third and fourth. That one didn’t work out so well… We exited in fourth, and Telefónica went around everyone to win the leg, nipping Camper by a minute. I think it’s safe to say we’re all looking forward to a little redemption this time around, especially given the eerie resemblance!
We’re in a good place, though. Tom is happy with our easterly position and the time has come to see it pay its dividends. The guys to our west will either have to stay low and fast, a risky route taking them through the Solomon Islands, or they’ll need to sheet in and sail far slower angles back up to our line, safely to the east of any geographic interference. Whatever they decide, our relative progress is less reliant on straight-line boatspeed and more on sail management and boat handling, especially in the varied conditions. There are many miles to be gained and lost in each maneuver, and those are miles on Groupama we desperately want to take.
Puma Ocean Racing website