Telefonica Blue and Green Dragon have managed to lift inside the rest of the fleet and gain to the north

Cracks are beginning to emerge and finally some lateral separation is opening up as the fleet approaches the 48 hour mark of the leg. Specifically, Telefonica Blue and Green Dragon have managed to lift inside the rest of the fleet and gain miles to the north on the other five boats.

The move has paid dividends for Telefonica Blue in the short term, moving Bouwe Bekking’s squad to equal first with PUMA on distance to finish. This gain may be short-lived however. If the wind shifts to the right, being to the left of the fleet isn’t going to be helpful.

The reality is that it’s very early in the leg, and all seven boats have remained close enough to each other to capitilise on any opportunity that comes their way. The top three – PUMA, Telefonica Blue and Ericsson 4 – are separated by just three miles on distance to finish and Bekking’s ‘break’ to the north puts the Blue boat less than 10 miles north of the others. Similarly, Ericsson 3, Telefonica Black and Delta Lloyd are all but within hailing distance of each other.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising the fleet remains so bunched up. True Wind Speeds, as reported in the Data Centre, vary by just one knot (14 to 15 knots) across the fleet at 04:00 GMT this morning.

The boats moving the fastest through the water (Ericsson 3 and Telefonica Black at 14 knots) are sailing slightly lower and so just slightly less efficiently towards the finish. This is a normal trade-off, and essentially rubs out their speed advantage. Simply put, there isn’t much difference between the seven boats in the fleet right now.

PUMA’s media crewman Rick Deppe said in his latest dispatch from il Mostro: “Not much change onboard il Mostro so far today…We are still beating across the South China Sea in 16 knots of wind where we find ourselves a couple of miles ahead of Ericsson 4 and the rest of the fleet, all heading NE towards the Philippines…”