Please select your home edition
Edition
Sealegs - On the water 728x90-1

Volvo OR: Lead change as the eastern group breaks out

by Richard Gladwell, Sail-World.com/nz 10 Jan 15:12 PST 11 January 2018
Leg 4, Melbourne to Hong Kong, day 09, sunset brings cloud activity with wind, and going into the night the fleet is spread out east to west waiting for a lucky puff, above Vestas 11th Hour. © Amory Ross / Volvo Ocean Race

The Volvo Ocean Race fleet is now split into two groups - with four boats in the easterly group and three - who made late but fortuitous moves in the Leg out to the west.

Currently, the race fleet is still in the southern hemisphere, well to the north of the Solomon Islands and to the south-west of Nauru Island.

After leapfrogging their way to the head of the leaderboard yesterday, the westerly group including the former leg leader Turn the Tide on Plastic initially dropped back to take the bottom three slots on the leaderboard.

At the previous sked at 1900UTC on January 10, the form boats - Team AkzoNobel, overall leader MAPFRE, Vestas 11th Hour racing and Dongfeng were making the front-running.

However, at the latest sked four hours later at 2300UTC, the leaderboard had changed again with Vestas 11th Hour Racing leading by a small margin of less than 1nm from previous sked leader Team AkzoNobel. Former leg leader Turn the Tide on Plastic had moved from fifth to third on the standings - which are calculated on a distance to sail to the finish basis, rather than Sail-World's preference using Predictwind.com's routing to estimate a finish time for each competitor.

Both groups are still sailing to the north, running in a southerly breeze to escape the Doldrums which are now into their fourth day, and get into the Trade winds which should take them all the way to the finish in Hong Kong - still eight and a half days away.

That last comment is one of the most telling as the time to finish, according to the routing function of Predictwind, has not decreased in 12 hours maybe more.

The simple explanation is that both groups are trying to get north as quickly as they can, trading off distance to the finish against the prospect of an earlier rendezvous with the Trades.

According to the official sked from 1900 UTC, there was a split of over 20 miles between the former leg leader Turn the Tide on Plastic (Dee Caffari) and the new leader Team AkzoNobel (Simeon Tienpont). In fact the fourth boat in the easterly group, Dongfeng Race Team - who led Leg 4 soon after the start in Melbourne, eight days ago only to lose an 11nm lead in just an hour when they hit the Doldrums - a windless expanse either side of the Equator.

Both groups, according to that sked are making double-digit speeds - not anticipated by the Predictwind routing model. However, that is normal for this region as the competitors chase breeze under the thunderheads and rain clouds which move through the area - giving wind squalls followed by periods of near calm.

In the 2300UTC Position Sked, the boats had slowed sailing at an average of 8kts or less for the past four hours - more in line with the Predictwind prognosis. The big mover was Turn the Tide on Plastic which is credited with making a gain of just under 19nm in the four hour period. Simple maths says that she would have had to sail at an average of almost 5kts faster than the three leading boats to achieve this gain - something which is not shown in the average boat speeds.

The explanation is that she has sailed a more westerly course, 20-30degrees better angle for the finish, and this is distorting the leaderboard rankings. The fleet is gybing downwind in a southerly, and boats which spend more time on a port gybe that others will show a gain in terms of distance to sail to the finish.

But the race is not yet over, with Predictwind showing the leaders of both groups finishing at approximately the same time. The out-take from that is that the Turn the Tide on Plastic led group probably still have some favourable cards to come from the Wind Gods.

Skipper Dee Caffari explains the gain made in the last two days by Turn the Tide on Plastic to lead the leg for a two day period.

"All it takes is just one cloud - and what a cloud it was.

"The radar showed a pretty intense cell of activity, we knew it would contain some good rain, and we had been surrounded by lightning for most of the night, but when this cell came overhead, it was insane.

"Huge strikes of lightning and a massive clap of thunder literally overhead in torrential rain. The wind was going all over the place with all sorts of speeds, and at the moment of the big hit, the whole boat tripped. Everything turned off and had to be re-started. At that moment when everything is in chaos, losing the boat systems was not what was needed. It certainly woke any sleepy people from their slumber!

"Sadly as a result of this crazy cloud action, we went from heroes to zeroes in the rankings. So we have some work to do. They are still in sight, but sadly we are not controlling them anymore.

"We need to fight our way back, and there is the opportunity to do that as we will have more of this activity and then there is also the doldrum active cells currently sat at the equator before we get any steady trustworthy wind. It is a long race and a lot of sailing still to be done.

Earlier the On Board Reporter on Turn the Tide on Plastic, Brian Carlin described conditions on board:

"It's been a day or so since I wrote - but in truth, it's been so hot below decks I've struggled to spend any time down here at all.

"Well you guessed it, it's the same as yesterday, no sharks but instead we had another waterspout, which I properly captured today and rain! Yes! Rain, glorious rain... we got a freshwater shower! Amazing really...

"I like the peace and quiet here but it's time to leave - like farm animals, we have all bunched together ready to leave in a hurry... we just hope we get the jump on the fleet and pick up the first signs of a stable easterly... fingers crossed...

"We had a false alarm today when we made some progress north, but a westerly isn't going to help us - we need an easterly to get out of here proper...

"We live in hope and push on - hopefully, we are on our way to HK soon! A cold beer is in order...."

Related Articles

Volvo OR: Ride the Wild Ocean - Video
Spectacular video from the Southern Ocean and more - Extended play The 2017/18 Volvo Ocean Race was probably the most memorable yet because of its high and low points. What made the race unique was the drone video which allowed fans to see a view of the race boats in the Southern Ocean that had previously only been seen Posted on 13 Jul
Volvo OR: Fourth win lifts Bannatyne to new level
With his fourth Whitbread RTWR/Volvo OR win has NZL's Stu Bannatyne become the Greatest of All Time? As part of the crew aboard Volvo Ocean Race winner, Dongfeng Racing, Stu Bannatyne (NZL) has a few monikers, including King of the Southern Ocean, but can now add the title as the sailor with the most wins in Volvo Ocean Race history. Posted on 6 Jul
Harken and the challenge of the Volvo Ocean Race
Ensuring the fleet is supplied with the very best and most reliable equipment Harken are the Official Supplier of Deck Hardware for the Volvo Ocean Race and ensure that the fleet is supplied with the very best and most reliable equipment for the duration of the event. Posted on 4 Jul
The IMOCAs around the world with a crew in 2021
Top round the World Sailors and Designers have strongly backed the new RTW fully crewed IMOCA60 After several months of talks and reflection, a partnership agreement has just been signed between the famous round the world race and the IMOCA class. The 60-foot IMOCA boats will be lining up at the start of the 2021 edition Posted on 3 Jul
Harken and the challenge of the Volvo Ocean Race
Ensuring the fleet is supplied with the very best and most reliable equipment Harken are the Official Supplier of Deck Hardware for the Volvo Ocean Race and ensure that the fleet is supplied with the very best and most reliable equipment for the duration of the event. Posted on 3 Jul
North Sails Weekly Debrief
52 Podium Sweep, Dongfeng Wins VOR, J70 Worlds Prep North Sails clients Luna Rossa, Phoenix, and Sled finished 1-2-3 in Zadar, Croatia. Posted on 1 Jul
Turn the Tide on Plastic win sixth place overall
Final race would prove decisive, with TTTP moving off the bottom of leaderboard... It took until the final In-Port Race, but Dee Caffari's Turn the Tide on Plastic moved off the bottom of the race leaderboard on Saturday, after securing sixth place in the Volvo Ocean Race. Posted on 30 Jun
Sustainability Programme continues to ride a wave
The last Ocean Summit of the 2017-18 edition of the Volvo Ocean Race The last Ocean Summit of the 2017-18 edition of the Volvo Ocean Race, in The Hague, helped develop a roadmap for future solutions to improve the health of our seas. Posted on 30 Jun
Volvo Ocean Race teams preparing for final start
Final start of the event at the Brunel In-Port Race It will be a bittersweet moment for the sailors, many of whom may be racing together for the last time after spending many miles at sea as close teammates. Posted on 29 Jun
Volvo OR: Race Village activities to continue
Volvo Ocean Race have issued a updated statement following the tragedy on Thursday evening. Volvo Ocean Race have issued a updated statement following the tragedy : Dutch police have released an update into the accident that occurred in the waters off the Race Village at Scheveningen Harbour on Thursday evening. Posted on 29 Jun
RS Sailing BOTTOM2018 bottom 660x82PRW 2018 660x82