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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Halfway To Happiness - Volvo Ocean Race Update

Things are likely to get very interesting as the Volvo Ocean Race fleet passes the halfway mark in the first leg.  Leaders PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG and their tenacious rivals Team Telefónica will be the first to take on the complex weather systems of the South Atlantic.
Photo: Diego Fructuoso/Team Telefonica/Volvo Ocean Race
After a drag racing to Fernando de Noronha that was only briefly interrupted by a short spell in the Doldrums and initiation ceremonies for sailors crossing the Equator for the first time, the crews now face the St Helena High, a huge, continually morphing area of high pressure sitting between them and finish line in Cape Town.
Photo: Amory Ross/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race
With more than 3,200 nautical miles still to go in the 6,500nm first leg from Alicante, Volvo Ocean Race weather expert Gonzalo Infante said tactics during the next stage of the leg could be the deciding factor in the sprint to the finish.
Photo: Diego Fructuoso/Team Telefonica/Volvo Ocean Race
“The latest forecasts show a big high pressure system blocking the way into Cape Town. The teams will have to navigate close to the centre of the St Helena High and this could provide opportunities for a reshuffle of the leaderboard.”
Ken Read checking emails Photo: Amory Ross/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race
PUMA’s Mar Mostro, skippered by Ken Read, held the lead at 1300 UTC, 12 nautical miles ahead of Team Telefónica who have stuck like glue to their rivals since leaving Alicante on November 5. The American team were first across the Equator and around  the only turning mark in Leg 1, Fernando de Noronha.
Photo: Hamish Hooper/CAMPER ETNZ/Volvo Ocean Race
Tom Addis, PUMA's navigator said their strategy was to continue to dive south in search of winds that could catapult them towards the finish line.

“The general plan here is to go south round the St Helena High. It’s looking fairly conventional now, which is good. The worst fear in this part of the world is having to go upwind into Cape Town, but luckily it doesn’t look like that.”
Photo: Amory Ross/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race
The crossing of the Equator prompted traditional ceremonies during which first-timers must go before King Neptune and his court to be punished for former sins. On PUMA, the race’s youngest sailor Rome Kirby, 22, was in the firing line together with media crew member Amory Ross, 27.

“There were a few sacrifices made to Neptune but none greater than my loss of hair,” Ross said following PUMA’s Equator crossing at 1055 UTC yesterday.
Photo: Amory Ross/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race
“Neptune and his humble servant, played by Tony Mutter and Ryan Godfrey, took a huge stripe down the middle with a pair of scissors so naturally everything else had to follow. Rome suffered a similar consequence. Then there was the obvious component of eating sludge – leftover breakfast, lunch, etc. with a few flying fish. We were both sail-tied to the back of the boat for a while.”
Navigator Will Oxley Photo: Hamish Hooper/CAMPER ETNZ/Volvo Ocean Race
CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand, sitting in third place pulled back 13 miles on their rivals in the three hours leading up to the latest report. Skipper Chris Nicholson said his team were waiting to pounce on any opportunity they can.

“We are just hanging in there, looking to gain any miles where we can, not taking unnecessary risks, but being patient for any opportunity to get back up with the leaders when one presents itself,” he said. “There is still another half of the leg to go, still a lot to happen yet,” Nicholson said.
Photo: Yann Roui/Groupama Sailing Team/Volvo Ocean Race
After being snared by the Doldrums, Groupama sailing team’s grasp on the leaders slipped to 422 nautical miles but they made up some ground at the 1300 UTC report gaining 12 nautical miles.

Navigator Jean Luc Nélias said that after 300 nautical miles of painfully slow progress through the Doldrums, the crew were relieved to have finally found steady breeze.

“We are happy to find the south-east trade winds and are heading to the Equator and Fernando. We will sail reaching along the Brazilian coast and will then have to round the St Helena High -- but it's still unclear.”

Lulu Roseman

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