The VOR fleet are experiencing light winds from the high pressure over the Celtic Sea 5/6/06

The Volvo Ocean Race leaders have now passed the Fastnet Rock and Mizzen Head and are heading north towards Gt. Skellig on the south west tip of Ireland. 

Early this morning, the fleet were experiencing lighter winds in the Celtic Sea as they were drifting within a mile of the Fastnet Rock.

As the fleet approached the peninsula of Mizen Head in the west of County Cork the wind decreased from nine knots to four knots in a space of six hours and they’re struggling for breeze.

Located on the promontory of Mizen Head is an old signalling station, a weather station and a lighthouse. The Mizen Head signal station was built in 1910 to save lives off the treacherous rocks at Ireland’s most south westerly point, but this perilous sea is now quietly calm.

Brasil 1 (Torben Grael) is sniffing at the heels of leading boat Ericsson Racing Team (Neal McDonald) sitting only one mile behind. Paul Cayard and his Pirates on The Black Pearl have dropped back to third, and the gap has widened to 12 miles between, in line with Brunel.

Ericsson’s new navigator Andrew Cape thinks the high pressure which is sitting on top of the whole fleet will move east and come back to bite the yachts on their way back down to Holland. “We have not had over three knots of wind speed for several hours so progress is painful. The fleet is definitely heading for a record run in the next 24 hours for the shortest distance travelled. The water is like glass as far as the eye can see with random zephyr creating a few ripples and giving the nearest boat a temporary advantage.”

The three back runners to the north east are playing a game of chess as Brunel (Matt Humphries) now takes ABN AMRO ONE’s (Mike Sanderson) place in fourth position by one mile, and ABN AMRO TWO (Sebastien Josse) just one mile behind ABN ONE. They have caught up on the leaders in the last 24 hours, putting pressure on Ericsson and Brasil 1.

Mike Sanderson reported earlier his concerns with the leader’s choice of route. “We didn’t like the way that the leaders where heading, in our opinion it was just too dangerous to just punch straight into the middle of a high. By doing that you are relying on the fact that it is moving.

“This is one time when I don’t think either options will be right, if the Farr boats have snuck through the high and are getting into the southerlies on the western side, then they will be launched and we will be the big losers, if our side pays and we are wriggling along in a light nor westerly then who knows what will happen.”

With the light winds, there are concerns over missing the in port racing in Rotterdam as well as having enough food for the slow leg. Paul Cayard of Pirates of the Caribbean is already rationing food. “We brought food for six days, which would have been one day more than needed. We won’t starve but a bit of food management is prudent at this point.”

Light airs will continue for at least another 24 hours as the large area of high pressure is drifting slowly east.  The fleet is eagerly awaiting the stronger south-south westerly winds on the western periphery of the high.  The average speed over the last 24-hours for leading yacht Ericsson (Neal McDonald) is only 5.4 knots and only 129 miles have been covered in that period.