Competitors take advantage of steady trade winds to tick off miles

The Volvo Open 70s are taking advantage of steady trade wind conditions to put the hammer down and watch the miles fly by.

This is a pure boat speed contest with a special emphasis on having the right sail for the right wind angle and the right man at the helm. Of course, having a hull shape that revels in these conditions doesn’t hurt either.

To this point, there doesn’t appear to be much to choose in that respect between the top four boats on the leaderboat. Around 24 hours ago, Telefonica Blue led by 106 miles over the second-placed Ericsson 4. Today the margin is 76 miles – but it’s Ericsson 3 in second place.

Wind speeds are up in the 20-24 knot range, and boat speeds are similar. And 24 hour runs range from 450 to 480 miles across the fleet. Here’s an account from Simon Fisher – who moved from the navigator’s chair to a helming role – describing life in the trade winds on a Volvo boat:

“It has been a good day of sailing today, flying along at 20 knots, with good breeze and pleasant weather. However, it is back to the fire-hose sailing with a continuous stream of water blasting down the deck at us…after six hours on deck there is very little of you that hasn’t been given a damn good soaking at some stage. Luckily though, the water is warm and progress is good, which makes it all the more tolerable.

“Behind us there is a real battle going on between the fleet which makes us all the more grateful for the lead we have. From our vantage point we get to see it all unfold and react accordingly. We have been keeping pace with the guys behind though which gives us some comfort, however we are still pushing hard to maintain our position.”

Chasing the leader, Ericsson 3 navigator Aksel Magdahl, pays tribute to the guys on deck making the boat go fast. He says that although it may appear as if this is easy, ‘set it up and go’ type sailing, that’s not the case at all:

“These boats do not go fast by themselves – the crew makes a big difference. And through the race, we have become a much stronger team in all areas,” he wrote this afternoon.

“Also, we communicate well about what angles to sail. We are sailing about 20 degrees off course as the boat is much faster at a wider wind angle. So all the time, we work on whether we make most miles towards Boston by sailing a bit faster and further off course, or point more for Boston and sail slower…

“We know well what sails to use and have set the boat up nicely. We also have very strong helmsmen and trimmers who can tweak a few tenths of a knot extra out of the boat.”

The three boats chasing that leading gang of four have dropped nearly 20 miles over the past day, but are still very much in touch.

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