Tactics are everything as the VOR fleet splits in two north of Great Britain 8/6/06

Overnight, Volvo Ocean Race fleet negotiated the perilous Pentland Firth and the front of the pack were rewarded for their tactics.

Ericsson, ABN AMRO ONE, and Brasil 1 respectively are 26 miles north east of Rattray Head and currently making 14 knots of boat speed. While the trailing boats are drifting inshore to Noss Head, only making four knots.

Last night, it would’ve been difficult to see the tidal eddies, rocks and islands as the boats navigated through the 11 mile long Pentland Firth in the dark. Yesterday Brasil 1 had moved into the lead, but the three leading boats are constantly shifting positions in this game of chess.

Ericsson (Neal McDonald), Brasil 1 (Torben Grael) and ABN AMRO ONE (Mike Sanderson) decided to head through the narrow Inner Sound, navigating between the island of Stroma and the Scottish mainland, and cutting off the corner to the rounding mark at Duncansby Head.

As Ericsson parked, within boat lengths, Brasil 1 tried to lee bow them in four knots of wind and failed. Kenny Read from Ericsson wrote: “They reached off to leeward in the narrow channel, and I thought for a moment that we had this next move in the chess match of all chess matches. But no. They got a little puff to leeward and pushed ahead. At the same time we could see ABN AMRO ONE about a mile and half back, feverishly tacking up the right side of the channel, which we thought was odd as we were heading down the channel towards the very northern tip of Scotland, which was within a couple of miles, and our right hand turn towards the finish.”

In frustration Read wrote: “The next thing we hear is ABN easing sheets doing 12 knots roaring past the two of us as we slowly parked in the current. The water where they were was also completely glassed off to our eyes. A great move by them. Personally I was ticked off as it was something that we could have tried but didn’t. Brasil and ourselves as usual got caught up with each other and lost focus
on all the options available.”

Pirates of the Caribbean (Paul Cayard) Brunel (Grant Wharington) and ABN AMRO TWO (Sebastien Josse) opted for the Outer Sound route between the islands of Stroma and Swona, which left them caught by the tide without much wind. This has cost them precious miles as they trail between 58 to 66 miles behind the leader.

Ericsson currently holds the lead with 390 miles to the finish, with ABN AMRO ONE two miles behind and Brasil 1 has dropped back to three miles.