Friday, November 18, 2011

Racing is Neck and Neck - Volvo Ocean Race Updte

As they power towards CapeTown PUMA’s Mar Mostro (Ken Read/USA) and Telefónica (Iker Martínez/ESP) are neck and neck, but  a tricky weather pattern lies ahead that could give the chasing pack some major opportunities.
Photo: Amory Ross/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race
“We’ve got to find our way around a few obstacles and the weather right now is looking pretty good for us,” said Telefónica’s navigator, Andrew Cape. “There are also a few opportunities for us to exploit and get in front of PUMA and get in there first. That’s the game, that’s the goal, and that’s what we must do – and we will do.”
Photo: Diego Fructuoso/Team Telefonica/Volvo Ocean Race
The stumbling blocks that Cape is refering to are the two cells of the Saint Helena High, which has split in two, with a southern cold front extending to the southern tip of Brazil, separating the two new cells.

This is the Southern Atlantic Convergence Zone (SACZ). The westerly cell is enlarging while the easterly cell is dispersing and, by Sunday, the two will have merged giving one large area. It will be a three-day transition from one scenario to the other. The trade winds will become weaker and light airs will be prominent in the centre.

Currently PUMA’s Mar Mostro and Telefónica have easterly tradewinds, but in the hours ahead they will have less breeze as they reach the SACZ and need to be very careful not to cross to the windless area west of the convergence zone.

From the north to the south side, there will be a dramatic change in wind direction too, so the leading pair will aim to stay slightly positioned to the east, following a strategy to keep in the good trade winds as long as they can. Therefore, for the next 24 hours, they will need to head SSE, but even so, the wind is likely to decrease to below 10 knots.

If they race straight south, they will reach the jail of light wind area. It is a trade-off between short and long-term strategy, which may play into the hands of CAMPER and Groupama 4, who should make some gains related to the leading pack.

The French team is around 24 hours behind the leaders and has just rounded the island of Fernando de Noronha. By the time they reach the convergence area, it will almost not exist, giving them a smooth transit to the westerlies, which will propel them towards Cape Town at high speed.

Chris Nicholson’s tactic on CAMPER is to wait for an opportunity and try not to force something that isn’t there. “There are a lot of miles to go,” he said. “We need to be sensible about it. If there’s a ridge, or a big weather system, then we might have a chance to get back in the game. That’s all we want – a chance.”

Lulu Roseman

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