Despite conditions fleet has already covered more than 1000 miles
For the Volvo Ocean Race navigators, the second leg has turned out to be a tactical conundrum, with most crews making the decision to go north. Puma’s Andrew Cape was first to break from the pack.
The boat (pictured) spent three and a half hours on port gybe before gybing back again. Andreas Hanakamp on Team Russia and Roberto Bermudez, new to the helm of Delta Lloyd followed Puma’s lead and gybed north as well.
By the 16:00 GMT report (17 November), Torben Grael’s men (Ericsson 4) were the most-southerly of the fleet – a separation of 75 miles from Ken Read’s Puma.
So – for the record – Puma leads, inching closer to Telefonica Blue, the most northerly of the fleet at a Distance To Leader (DTL) of 3, with Telefonica Black ( 7) nominally third. Keeping close company in the middle of the course is Ericsson 3 ( 16) and Green Dragon ( 17).
Conditions have progressively worsened on board as the Southern Ocean makes its presence felt. Ian Walker’s Green Dragon took the brunt of it. “I was just getting my waterproofs on down below when there was a huge bang and the boat went into an involuntary Chinese gybe,” Walker reported.
“You might think this is alright for a boat with such strong Chinese connections but a Chinese gybe is what we all fear most as it is when the boat crash gybes and leaves you on your side with everything including the keel on the wrong side.
“As the mainsail hit the weather runners, water started pouring in down below through the ventilation hatches due to the side decks now being underwater but the boat miraculously turned back the right way, gybed back and righted itself.
“The steering blocks had sheared away leaving Neal (McDonald) with no steerage on the weather wheel. As the boat speared out of control Anthony Merrington managed to grab the leeward wheel just in time and straighten us up.
“Everyone was harnessed on and everything secure so no harm was done. Fortunately the only real cost was perhaps 5-10 miles and we are now back up and running with another bar story to tell.”
Illness on board
Dealing with cold fronts has been occupying the mind of navigator Matt Gregory on Delta Lloyd. “With the passing of the cold front we will see winds increasing into the low 30’s and a dramatic wind shift to the South West. This will change our trajectory from South east to East. As a fleet we will be heading directly towards our scoring gate, which is about 1600 miles to the east.”
There were also developments on the colds-and-flu front. Gregory is one of those afflicted. “I’ve developed a cold over the past two days,” he said. “It’s most likely a reaction to the five immunization shots that I was required to receive, by racing rules, just before we left Cape Town. I have lost my voice, gained a fever, a head ache and generally, feel like crap.”
Puma’s Ken Read is also suffering. “One small issue on board is a bit of a flu that has taken hold – not very much fun for a few of us,” he said. “And the great news for the rest of the group is they can almost be guaranteed to get the cold eventually, based on the unavoidable hygiene on a lovely Volvo Open 70 petri dish.”
Yet more sick notes from Bouwe Bekking on Telefonica Blue. “This morning was the first time that I was able to get out of my foullies and go inside a sleeping bag,” he said.
“The reason is that a lot of guys are crook (ill), and I think they have eaten something wrong, or there is something wrong with our water. Half are throwing up, and looking awful. So for the lucky ones it is extra snacks, extra biltong and extra jamon. Snacks aplenty,”
Polly Gough, the race’s Medical Co-Ordinator, offered up a remedy. “I would advise paracetamol and plenty of fluid,” she said. “I guess a few of them are feeling tired and rundown so I would also recommend plenty of rest.”
Not sure that R&R is high on the agenda right now with the weather forecast promising no let-up over the next 12 hours.
Despite the upwind conditions on the first night, and the large sea state, the fleet has covered more than 1000 miles since Saturday.
At this point everyone is flying downwind with strong W to SW’ly breeze, racing east towards the scoring gate. The winds across the fleet are currently being driven by the strong WSW’ly pressure gradient around the top of a southern ocean low.
The tail end of a cold front extending north from this low moved over the fleet on Monday, causing the winds to back left to a gusty and cold SW’ly flow.
At this point the shortest distance to the scoring gate is to continue due east; however, the backing winds could make for a good opportunity to start heading north. Over the next 48 hours, the rapidly moving systems of the Southern Ocean will offer plenty of opportunities for each team to make their move north.
Through the beginning of the week the southern ocean lows will continue to dominate the conditions; with the next low expected to catch up to the fleet on Thursday. Meanwhile, high pressure forming to the north of the fleet will have a more and more significant influence as the week goes on.
For today, a new high will start to develop southwest of Madagascar. Through the day Wednesday, this high is expected to build, tracking east. Then in the early hours of Thursday morning, about the same time the leaders are expected to reach the scoring gate, the tail end of the next cold front will pass over the fleet.
Once this cold front passes, the high will shift south building rapidly and moving northeast through the end of the week. Hopefully the teams can tap into the S’ly pressure gradient around the leading edge of this high to make their way north.
Read some of the boats’ blogs?..
Green Dragon – Ian Walker (Skipper)
Conditions have progressively got harder over the last 24 hours as we head towards the Southern Ocean. For Green Dragon things were getting better. At 10 am we crossed ahead of Puma by about 6 miles as they gybed North East and we recorded the longest distance in the latest position report.
Our sail combination was obviously fast although we were on the edge with the spinnaker up in over 30 knots. You can tell down below when things are about to go wrong and I was just getting my waterproofs on when there was a huge bang and the boat went into an involuntary Chinese gybe. You might think this is alright for a boat with such strong Chinese connections but a Chinese gybe is what we all fear most as it is when the boat crash gybes and leaves you on your side with everything including the keel on the wrong side.
As the mainsail hit the weather runners, water started pouring in down below through the ventilation hatches due to the side decks now being underwater, but the boat miraculously turned back the right way, gybed back and righted itself. Everyone’s immediate reaction was that we had broken the rudder, but as it turned out the steering blocks had sheared away down below leaving Neal with no steerage on the weather wheel.
As the boat speared out of control Anthony Merrington (aka Youngster) managed to grab the leeward wheel just in time and straighten us up. Able to steer from only the leeward wheel we managed to drop the spinnaker and affect an immediate repair. Everyone was harnessed on and everything secure so no harm was done. Tom Braidwood, Damian Foxall and Justin Slattery didn’t hesitate to drill right through the hull and secure a new block. Fortunately the only real cost was perhaps 5-10 miles and we are now back up and running with another bar story to tell. I should point out that Damian has never sailed from Cape Town without having to turn back into Port Elizabeth in all his previous Volvo races so we still can’t relax unless the jinx returns. I thought it had.
Delta Lloyd – Matthew Gregory (Navigator)
“I thought I’d be feeling better by today. I was right. We changed sails earlier today to our high clew reacher – “the R1”. We are sailing in 25 to 40 knots of wind and 8 meter high waves. It’s a wild and bumpy ride. The surf is up.
Our sail change come with some adventure. We use our J4, a small jib fore sail that flies on a furler off of our staysail halyard, almost all of the time, when sailing down wind.
During our sail change the tack pin that connects the furling unit, and sail, to the deck of the boat broke. Imagine sailing in 30 knots of wind with the head (top corner) and clue (back corner) of the sail still attached, while the tack (bottom corner) whips around violently with an 3kg metal furling unit attached to the tail end of it.
As we tried to wrestle the sail to the deck someone said “boy, this is dangerous” … he was exactly right.
I’ve been dreading writing the blog entry to describe the strategy and route to India. I don’t think that I can do it with a simple screen shot and words alone. I think that I’d need a 20 slide powerpoint deck and live commentary, to capture the complete strategy … this route is complicated and has about 5 moving parts.
Being adaptable and managing risk is going to be the winning solution in this leg. To give a simple version: Right now we are sailing on the backside of a low pressure system. (as shown in the current position picture) This system is allowing us to get east very quickly, due to the south west winds in this section of the system.
We will head almost due east and past the scoring gate. For this leg our mid scoring gate is the Longitude 58 E. The furthest boats to the east will pick up the most points at this mid-leg gate. The transition from the north westerly winds that are driven by the low pressure system and the east trades could be a bit rough. I’ll spend the next several days working out the details of how we are going to play the shift from one weather system to the next. Currently, we are too far away from that point, and I don’t have all the information I need yet to make a call this early. We’ll stay adaptable in the mean time …
The easterly trade winds will then take us up to the doldrums. The last part of this leg is going to be very tricky. The monsoon season is changing off the coast of India so it’s tough to know if we will finish in an south west or a north east monsoon weather pattern by the time we get up to India.
I’m keeping an eye on it and following the trends closely. However the decisions on the strategy for that section of the leg is still 10 days away.”