Crews prepare for gale force winds as they bear down fast towards Cape Town

Wind speeds and boat speeds are in the 20 knot range this morning with the fleet bearing down fast towards Cape Town. Most of the fleet is posting 24-hour runs near 400 miles now, with Ericsson 3 the standout performer at 417 miles. That’s allowed Anders Lewander to close back to within 50 miles of the leaders on the 0700 position report.

But the story today is the weather forecast, for which the teams have been preparing their boats over the past few days. Different models are presenting different maximum wind strengths, but certainly gale force winds (above 34 knots) are on the cards for a sustained period. Near the centre of the system, winds could reach 40 knots. And in these powerful Volvo Open 70’s that’s plenty of breeze.

“There is a storm brewing – a very big one. If you lived along the coast in the south of the USA you’d be boarding up your windows and driving your car inland if you saw this storm coming your way,” wrote Matt Gregory, Delta Lloyd. “We are sailing towards it right now. The low-pressure system to our south is going to merge with another low to the south east, unifying into a deep depression of 970 mb. This system will generate gale force winds. This storm is a gateway to hell?”

Delta Lloyd is about 100 miles to the north-northwest of the leaders and posted a 412 mile day over the 24 hours ending at 0700 this morning (28 October). Their position to the north means they’ll be sailing a shorter distance to Cape Town, and were they to get the wind at the same time as the others, they could make a gain on the leaderboard.

But the leaders still seem to be pursuing a strategy further south. PUMA retains its lead on Ericsson 4, with Green Dragon slightly behind and about 15 miles further south. Yesterday, Ericsson 4 actually crossed ahead of PUMA when they did a short gybe to the south, which Ken Read (Puma skipper) described:

“[They gybed] and crossed our bow by about 20 boat lengths earlier this afternoon ending an incredible run of being neck and neck sailing. They are heading south presumably looking for more wind. We kind of like where we are right now and decided to end our little boat on boat battle?at least for now. It is not easy predicting the weather situation right now, except for the fact that someone is going to turn the fans on pretty good for a few days.”