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Volvo Ocean Race - No clear leader as fleet dives south before turn

by Richard Gladwell and Volvo Ocean Race on 18 Nov 2017
Leg 02, Lisbon to Cape Town, day 12, Scallywag rolls over Turn the Tide on Plastic during a sunset drag race as a cargo ship cuts ahead. Neck and neck sailing with Scallywag as the fleet curves away from Brazil on board Turn the Tide on Plastic. Photo by Sam Greenfield/Volvo Ocean Race. 17 November, 2017 Sam Greenfield / Volvo Ocean Race
According to the weather routing function of the fleet leaders are expected to finish within a few days of each other when Leg 2 finishes in five and a half or six days time in Cape Town, South Africa.

Winds are still moderate in strength with the sleigh ride just two days away once the boats reach the latitude of Cape Town and make the turn for the finish line.

At this stage the fleet is expected to finish on Thursday late evening UTC.

At this stage (0700 UTC on November 18) the three teams who have previously completed a Volvo Ocean Race, Brunel, DongFeng and MAPFRE are predicted to be the front runners according to the two most accurate weather feeds used by for weather routing.

Using weather data from the PWG feed, the first five yachts are expected to finish within an hour of each other. PWG sees the breeze increasing in a couple of days and giving fast rides for a day or two with a 600nm 24hour run possible if the average speeds predicted are attained.

A second feed ECMWF has a more conservative view of the wind strength as the fleet race through the South Atlantic.

The routing for both feeds is very similar, indicating that the prognosis is accurate and that being so the boats are expected to turn for Cape Town in about 24 hour time or 0900UTC on 19 November.

The actual distance predicted to be sailed is about 400-500nm longer than the prediction from Volvo Ocean Race which is using the method of distance to the finish, without factoring in weather systems and routing into the equation.

In the latest report from Volvo Ocean Race all seven boats in the Volvo Ocean Race fleet are sailing to the southwest. But the finish line in Cape Town is now nearly directly to the east. Every mile sailed in this westerly direction is adding to, not subtracting from, the distance to finish.

But it is a tactical gamble. The extra distance should be more than compensated by the stronger winds the teams are seeking. But it's no sure thing. And the navigators are starting to express their difference of opinion in the tracks they are taking.

This has lead to some interesting developments overnight. Dongfeng Race Team, previously furthest south, has ceded that position to MAPFRE by continuing to the east for nearly three extra hours.

In fact, by doing so, Dongfong is now positioned further east than onyone else, including team AkzoNobel who also gybed earlier, and as expected, after leading the fleet rankings over the past few days due to that easterly position, are now folding in behind the leaders.

At the back, further to the north, SHK/Scallywag and Turn the Tide on Plastic are sailing directly within in sight of each other, with first one and then the other making a pass as Scallywag navigator Steve Hayles explains:

'Right now we are about 300 metres away from Turn the Tide and every piece of information is available. We can track them in real time via the AIS systems and radar, we can see them move the sail stack and have an idea about sail setup and configuration.

'All this increases the focus on-board as you can assess every little change to water ballast, steering, sail set-up etc. and get a real time near metre accurate view of the differences. It's good fun and recently we managed to roll over the top of the other boat so it has helped lift the spirits but fortunes come and go and when it's their turn tonight in the middle of a fast moving situation in a rain cloud then we might feel a little more under pressure.

'Enjoying the close competition with at least one other boat but it's going to be long and stressful to do this for the remaining 2700 miles !'

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