Friday, December 23, 2011

Clouds Cause Headaches for Navigators - Volvo Ocean Race Update

As well as battling with incessant heat and severe sleep deprivation, the crew of the five boats racing towards their secret destination, led by Leg 1 winner Telefónica (Iker Martínez/ESP), are paying particular attention to the clouds.

Rogue clouds can be seen on radar and can signal lots of wind or, the real dread to sailors, no wind at all. It is a minefield for the crews as they pick their way carefully towards the more stable westerly breeze on the northern side of the Doldrums.

“A lucky cloud can definitely help, but get in the wrong spot and they can park you right up,” says Simon Fisher from Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, currently in fifth place, 120 nautical miles behind Telefónica, but making a comeback and averaging a fast 19 knots.

“Most ‘yachties’ would take wind over calms any day,” says Will Oxley, CAMPER’s navigator. The red boat is clinging on to second place despite losing 15 nm to Telefónica in the past three hours. “The calms are our enemy,” Oxley says.

Not only can a lack of breeze in hot humid weather drive the crews to despair, it can also play cruel tricks on the navigators. “The weather models tend to be tricky in very light winds, so they can tell you porkies,” renowned Australian meteorologist Clouds Badham explained to Volvo Ocean Race magazine Life at the Extreme.

Ken Read, skipper of PUMA's Mar Mostro, which entered the Doldrums in second position and is now struggling back in fourth, is certainly feeling the pain.

“It’s been a long day and it is the ultimate frustration,” he radioed today. “You work your butt off to get into a really nice position and then it comes crashing down on you. I feel sorry for Groupama.”

Groupama 4’s Phil Harmer echoed Read’s sentiments: “We were leading into the Doldrums and we may be third or fourth out. PUMA is struggling and we are disappointed on board Groupama 4.” Groupama 4 lost another 15 nm this evening and is now just a fraction over 62 nm from the leading boat and in third position.

It seems that however big the lead is, it is never enough where the Doldrums are concerned, however the race is not over until the finish gun fires and there are still opportunities over the coming days.

Volvo Ocean Race Media

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