Neither of the two schools of meteorological thought that emerged yesterday has struck breeze, leaving the eight boats contesting the first leg of the Volvo Ocean Race milling around with 20 miles covering first to last
After the exhilaration of the first night, blasting across the Channel at 16-20 knots, the fleet has struggled with sloppy northeasterly breezes, splitting gybes south and west to keep the boats moving. At 1000 this morning, the fleet was scattered around a point about 50 miles west-southwest of Ushant with light southwesterlies slowly establishing themselves.
The southwesterlies are expected to settle in, build to Force 3-4 before increasing to Force 5-6, possibly Force 7 later. The next obvious move would be to flip onto port gybe and get some sea room rather than take chances with the short, confused wave patterns that blight the Bay of Biscay in strong winds.
The lead is currently shared between Tyco and illbruck, both in the southwesterly sector of the fleet and picking up the new breeze first. “After a relatively slow start and periods of no wind we have picked up a new south westerly,” said Tyco skipper Kevin Shoebridge at 1130 today. “We are currently sailing upwind in 19 knots of breeze and we suspect this will be the situation for the next couple of days. We have a narrow lead over the fleet but are in sight of illbruck, Amer Sports One and Assa Abloy. Good close racing at this point.
“The next few days are critical in this first leg with many of the decisions playing a big part in our future. Life onboard has been pleasant but somehow I suspect that is about to change, we have just hit our first wave and we are about to change jibs. The breeze is particularly shifty and puffy at the moment – never a dull moment.”
There is very little to choose between the rest of the fleet but in DTF terms, Amer Sports One and Assa Abloy are six and eight miles behind the leaders respectively, also in the southerly half of the fleet. News Corp and SEB are both 16 miles off the lead but SEB’s membership of the southerly fleet looks like the most advantageous in terms of new breeze and covering breakaways. djuice and Amer Sports Too are both persevering with Plan A, to make as much westing as possible before gybing south to clear Cap Finisterre.