Into the Straits and the re-shuffle starts and the stress begins to build. NEW VIDEO & REPORTS from the boats
The leg to dread began with a tame drag race across the eastern side of the Indian Ocean, but now as the fleet arrives at the northern tip of Sumatra the pressure is starting to build.
From here the fleet will head down the Malacca Strait into an increasingly congested area with fickle shifty breezes. Before the race many of the navigators saw this area as the re-start of the race as a park up concertinaed the fleet. That is yet to happen but at the moment getting around the tip of Sumatra is the first step.
As the intensity of the action increases the regularity of the tracker reporting has been increased and will be updating the boats’ position every 60 seconds.
To access the live data open the tracker as normal and press the red ‘Live’ button. The boats’ positions will be updated automatically each minute.
Having stayed high on the drag east, Telefonica and Camper, separated by just a mile, were in the best position to take a small hitch to weather to clear the outlying islands and lead the fleet.
Puma and Groupama are close behind, but the team that is most likely enduring the greatest stress at the moment is Ian Walker’s Abu Dhabi that trails the front runners by 25 miles and currently lies in fifth place. While the margin isn’t huge, the fact that the team got rolled on this part of the leg revealed a worrying boat speed issue in these conditions.
Meanwhile the navigational and tactical task ahead is a daunting one.
At around 500 nautical miles from north to south the Malacca Strait is the longest in the world used for international navigation. Linking the Indian Ocean with the China Sea the strait is the preferred route for bulk of large scale commercial shipping in the region with more than 500 vessels passing through each day.
As well as keeping well clear of the tankers and cargo ships the crews will also have to dodge huge fleets tiny local fishing boats. Difficult enough to spot in the daytime, at night the boats and nets are often unlit and will pose a truly horrendous challenge to the teams.
The strait is over 200 nautical across at its widest point but narrows to less than 15 nm in the south where the fleet will exit into the South China Sea through the bustling Singapore Strait.
Deep water channels run through the strait but the seabed shelves rapidly to as little as 10 metres in places and is riddled with un-marked wrecks and shoals throughout. To complicate matters further complex tidal flows run up and down the strait at as much as five knots.
CAMPER – HAMISH HOOPER
Today is day five, which each leg ends up being quite a significant day because its around the five day mark you start to get a bit uncomfortable in the same underpants and clothes you have been wearing from the start. It’s about this time that everyone starts thinking about a change. Chuny was first to go for the full wet wipe clean, moisturize and wardrobe change. He smelt delightful. I’m still holding on, I told myself at the start of the leg that I would change out as soon as I see Indonesia… It’s a tantalizing prospect. I just hope we see it.
Over night was a busy one for the guys, trying to keep the boat beating along nicely to remain at the sharp end of the fleet. Made all the more difficult with continued pesky clouds, which put the brakes on seemingly every time it was commented how well the boat was going along. The guys on watch all do a brilliant job working together identifying clouds in the night sky by sight on deck and radar below deck to decide which are the good clouds, which are the bad ones and which way to approach them. It reminds me a bit of the security team at airport scanners looking over the people and bags as they come along then sending them through the scanner to see what they are hiding. This might be comforting for the guys to know they would be well qualified to work at an airport once their sailing careers are finished.
Shortly after 1000 UTC CAMPER turned the corner around the northern tip of Sumatra;
“Suddenly after five days of monotonous port tack sailing this leg has come alive. Seemingly out of nowhere we are a hundred metres of Pulau Weh in a tacking duel with Telefonica just ahead and Puma a couple of miles behind. Incredible that since leaving the Maldives some 1380 nautical miles away all three boats end up in the same small stretch of water at the same time. It’s quite a sensation having seen only water sky and horizon to now seeing steep green mountains rising up from the sea and beautiful tropical beaches scattered around. Unfortunately this isn’t a sight seeing trip and its all hands on deck, with the same intensity to an inshore race. It’s all go, I think the next stage of this leg has just started.”
As predicted on board “Telefónica”, the northern option has finally paid off and after a climb up and up the rankings over the past few hours, two days after the tactical move North the boat skippered by Iker Martínez is now leading the Volvo Ocean Race fleet on their way to China.
At today’s 13:00 position report the crew had already shaved six miles off the gap with the then fleet leaders, the team from New Zealand. That was in fourth place as the fastest yacht in the fleet. By 16:00 racing was red hot. Iker Martínez and co moved past “Puma” and “Groupama” to sweep into second place in the fleet, putting themselves just four miles from the top spot, in the confident knowledge that theirs was still the fastest boat in the race at 14.1 knot average speeds, almost two knots more than the crew from NZ.
The forecasts have come good and at 19:00 UTC this Thursday evening, with 160 miles to go until the obligatory waypoint on this stretch of the leg, Pulua We, where the revered and somewhat tricky Strait of Malacca begins, “Telefónica” is sailing in first place at 14.8 knots.
Latest video clip from the boat features helmsman, trimmer and sails coordinator Jordi Calafat
PUMA OCEAN RACING – AMORY ROSS
The Malacca Strait adventures began last night and we’re still a day out. Notoriously touted as one of the busiest and most congested shipping lanes in the world, we found our fare share of exiting and entering ships to contend (and communicate) with in the dark. There was also distant lightning, several 20-plus knot squalls – the first of this leg – and a solid thud-of-a-something off our leeward daggerboard; I’d say we’re getting close!
The approach to the Straits, a right-hand turn around the northwest corner of Indonesia, looks fetch-able right now were it not for a wicked adverse current and an expected header coming off the land (we think it’s hot now?). So we have two more tacks to take before we can lay the inlet, and then it’s a complex navigational challenge in picking a side to play for the run down.
But before we even get there we have to fend off Groupama and CAMPER to the south, and not lose touch of Telefónica to the north. The guys from Spain seemingly cannot put a foot wrong and they’ve been consistently extending all day long. Hopefully they park up somewhere so we can exact some revenge for their Leg 1 and 2 Doldrums switcheroos…
None of this detracts from the more important matter at hand: the Giants v. Patriots Super Bowl buildup (or, as every non-American on the boat calls it, the “Global World Championships of a sport nobody else plays”). There has been a steady stream of pre-game emails coming to the boat and the Giants, my boys in blue, are again the underdogs in Vegas; just the way they like it. It only means my winnings from Kenny and Rome are going to be that much greater… It’s just up to Tom to make sure we get to China in time to watch it. No pressure Tom.
MIKE SANDERSON – TEAM SANYA
I promised to myself to not write if I didn’t have positive things to say. I used to hate during the last race which I didn’t do reading about skippers whinging … poor me.., why us… blah blah…, then after our Madagascar visit which certainly gave me a pretty quick wake-up call just how lucky we are even in our day to day lives, let alone to be out here playing boats with a group of people we enjoy being with really just cemented that. Based on all that however this is going to be pretty short.. ha ha, we have had a shocking 24 hours from a racing standpoint, first of all though I have to say that the boat and the guys are all great, OUR boat hasn’t skipped a beat and we have had ( touch wood) not one small breakage and the guys are great as always, just pushing, pushing the whole time trying to keep us in the game.
The bad bits are that we got raked over by a series of black clouds, one in particular that saw us lose more then 20 miles to the fleet!!, it was a new experience for all of us on-board, a cloud travelled upwind against the trades ( NE Monsoon) and grabbed us.. parked us up for a while and then had us sailing downwind for as long as two hours while we tried to make the most of it.. always in the back of your mind though you know that this isn’t good.. for after it has done with you, the old breeze needs to re-establish itself in the wake of what is a pretty big weather system.. so sure enough there we flopped, knowing the whole time that the other guys where sailing away at twelve or thirteen knots…lemon… then when back in the breeze finally we got nailed twice by some more normal far smaller clouds, one a loss of six miles and one of five… So that’s been our day.
24 hours ago we had Abu Dhabi five and half miles away and the rest of the fleet within 35 and now the numbers are 30 and 60 ish…. What this means is that we are PERFECTLY position for our “Buffalo Girls” move that I spoke about the other day…. Yup.. they park up and we go round the outside…., okay, pretty wish-full thinking but remember this is from a glass half full crew!! We need to keep this fun otherwise we will all go mad.. reality is we have a speed deficit to the new boats and so like we did in the last leg, we will need to hit some calculated corners to get this thing on the podium.. not just punch it out there every time, but be patient and wait for a goodie….
So that’s our little world, next time you hear from us we will be out of the Indian Ocean, and into the Malacca straits, all the planning we have done for this section of the race showed what a game of snakes and ladders it could end up being.. so fingers crossed that we are rich with Ladders!!! Let’s be honest, we have Duff the Magic Dragon on our side, how can we not be lucky!!!!