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Volvo OR - MAPFRE holds whip hand as fleet clear Equator

by Richard Gladwell, 11 Jan 19:23 PST 12 January 2018
Leg 4, Melbourne to Hong Kong, Day 10 onboard Turn the Tide on Plastic. All Hands on deck at the sqaull line comes in closer. © Brian Carlin / Volvo Ocean Race

All seven boats in the Volvo Ocean Race are now north of the Equator. However, they are still plagued by the light winds of the Doldrums.

At the latest sked - 0100UTC on January 12, 2018, overall race leader MAPFRE looked to have consolidated the prime position and was sitting on top of the leaderboard, based on distance to the finish in Hong Kong.

In the last 24 hours, there have been some impressive runs of over 250nm by MAPFRE and Team Brunel which is almost 13nm behind on her starboard quarter.

After playing follow the leader - behind Vestas 11th Hour Racing and Dongfeng Race Team, MAPFRE along with the rest of the seven boat fleet hit speeds of 12-13kts for a significant period as they sailed almost due north (not making any gain in the direction of the finish line) to escape the clutches of the Doldrums before heading west for Honkers.

The breeze then swung into the NE for the leaders forcing a drop in speed and a change in course. MAPFRE headed west while the first two covered each other and took the easterly option (sailing away from the finish line). They were both caught as the breeze dropped further to just 3kts, while out to the west, MAPFRE still had 6kts giving 5-6kts of boat speed but tellingly only 1.3kts in VMG or speed towards the finish.

That is where they sit at the latest report - a group of six with MAPFRE to the west Brunel to the south and the others to the east, with 3000nm left to sail.

On the leaderboard, SHK Scallywag is lying in fourth overall however she is well astern of the other boats and is flattered by the fact that she is as far in the west as MAPFRE. She can only get out of jail if the breeze comes in allowing the most westerly boats to turn and head for Hong Kong and SHK Scally wag can sail a slightly hotter angle, plus has not spent as much time as the others head north.

Team Brunel is another seen in a flattering light by Volvo Ocean Race's leaderboard because of her westerly position tucked in behind MAPFRE.

According to the routing function of Predictwind, the fleet is in for a fast ride to Hong Kong with that particular bus leaving anytime soon. Quite who will be on it will determine the outcome, as there would appear to be no passing lanes for the next six days until the fleet clear the top of the Philippines and are in the last 24hours counting down for the finish. Then the winds are forecast to lighten - but that is still a long way away.

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