ABN AMRO One revels in stronger winds as rest of fleet flounder on approach to Rio 7/3/06

Huge losses have been made overnight in the Volvo Ocean Race as race leader ABN AMRO ONE, in their westerly position, sailed through the dissipating low-pressure system, reached the new south-westerly gradient and managed to maintain high speeds all the way. For the next six hours, their good fortune will continue as the breeze ahead is good, while the rest of the fleet struggles in virtually no wind at all. According to the latest weather report the light wind situation is likely to continue for the rest of the fleet all the way to the Rio de Janeiro finish line.

Paul Cayard is sitting at the Pirates’ nav station, waiting for the next weather report. “We are waiting for the wind to lift just a bit more and then we will gybe onto port and head towards the shore. The game here is to try and get the biggest shift without getting so close to the centre of the low, that we lose too much wind. This is made trickier by the fact that this low pressure system is decaying and possibly spreading out.”

Brasil 1 was the worst hit by the light airs, losing 71 nautical miles to the leader in the last six hours and only managing an average speed of 4.3 knots, compared with that of ABN AMRO ONE at 17.2 knots. Pirates of the Caribbean lost 29 miles and is now 50 miles behind Sanderson. Third-placed ABN AMRO TWO lost 57 miles and Ericsson Racing Team lost 52 miles. The stress of racing is inevitably going to increase.

Knut Frostad, watch leader on Brasil 1, says: “The big thing now is the change of mode from breezy, high speed conditions to light air focus. The boat is constantly restacked (all the sails, spares and the very few food bags left are moved forward, to leeward on deck and down again). The fleet is packed again, and in fact anyone has a realistic chance of being first into Rio.”

The pressure is on for everyone, not just the leaders. “More than 800 miles to go in very light airs: this is not the easiest for us. The pressure is on, but we are well trained for that as every finish has been running this scenario, hopefully we will survive,” wrote Sidney Gavignet from ABN AMRO ONE.

Team movistar (Bouwe Bekking) is making good progress and is currently 57 miles south of the Falkland Islands.