The next 24 hours could prove crucial to Leg 6 leaders CAMPER and Abu Dhabi as they discover whether their split inshore will pay off.
Changing sails onboard Abu Dhabi
© Nick Dana/Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race
With 80 miles of lateral separation splitting the leading pair from their rivals in the south-east, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing skipper Ian Walker said he wouldn’t want to bet on who was in the strongest position.
“CAMPER and ourselves are trying to keep out of the current, staying inshore,” Walker said. “It might be that there’s something off the land later today. It’s very much in the balance though -- the wind might fill in from the east a bit later.
“I wouldn’t like to call who’s in the best position right now.”
The divide was forced on the fleet by changing wind direction, meaning both groups had to commit to their inshore or offshore routes to sail the fastest angles.
Wade Morgan modifies a part of the galley onboard Abu Dhabi
©Nick Dana/Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race
Walker, a double Olympic silver medallist, said now the dice have been rolled it would be a question of who came off best in the race to pick up the consistent south-easterly trade winds.
“Once we settle into the trade winds later on everyone’s probably going to take a similar line and it will be more boat speed-orientated,” Walker added.
“There’s always decisions to be made but for sure right now there’s quite a big separation, quite a big difference in current and could quite easily be a big difference in breeze.
“There are two distinct groups of boats – three if you count PUMA on their own – and we could easily see a break in the fleet.”
On board first-placed CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand the future was equally unclear.
“Our hope is we will get a favourable wind shift and an ounce more pressure and be able to skirt inside them all and out in in front as we hit the trades,” said media crew member Hamish Hooper.
“It’s a little optimistic maybe, but why not. The glass is always half full on CAMPER.”
Nightfall approaches, onboard PUMA Ocean Racing
©Amory Ross/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race
Ken Read’s men have held a commanding position since blasting with assertion around yesterday’s 7.8 nautical mile quick-fire inshore course at Itajaí, and at 0700 UTC on Monday held a three nautical mile lead.
PUMA Media Crew Member Amory Ross said the team were abuzz with the reality of holding first place, racing home and the prospect of sailing the final 10-plus day leg of this race.
“The familiarity of our destination is exciting, and everyone’s looking forward to returning our Mar Mostro to the waters of the North Atlantic, the very same waters this adventure began so many months ago,’’ he said.
The secondary fleet positions have continued to shuffle overnight as the sailors settle back into routines, with Groupama sailing team jumping from last to third at 1900 UTC before returning to the back of the fleet just eight hours later.
Jono Swain and Tony Mutter keep Mar Mostro moving in light winds
©Amory Ross/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race
CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand managed to shift from last to fourth at 0100 UTC, before jumping to second at 0700 UTC. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing are in third place and Team Telefónica are fourth, just 3.9 nm behind the leaders.
The five teams have ticked off more than 200 nm since the 4,800 nm race started at 1700 UTC on Sunday, and have revelled in the first downwind start of this edition of the race Abu Dhabi MCM Nick Dana reported.
“Conditions couldn’t be any better for the moment; fast reaching, flat seas and warm water,’’ he said.
“It was difficult to get everyone into the watch routine, as they all seem to want to stay on deck and keep sailing. Azzam is off like a rocket and we are just holding off CAMPER who is about a mile to leeward of us.”
On board CAMPER the crew had an eerie sense that they had never been ashore, having spend just six days in Itajaí after an epic 31-day Leg 5 that was marred with hull damage and a pit-stop at Chile.
CAMPER MCM Hamish Hooper said the crew were in the worst physical shape they had been in so far, but mentally they were strong and focused on the race.
“There is no point sweating the stuff you can’t control or getting frustrated at things that can’t change, you just have to keep focused on doing as best as you possibly can every time there are points up for grabs,’’ Hooper said.
“It’s a relatively short leg, 14 days maybe, but there is going to be a lot on.
“From what our trusty navigator Will Oxley tells me, this leg is going to be a virtual minefield of opportunities for big loses, and alternatively big gains so anything can happen.”
Oxley reiterated that indeed it was going to be a tough race to call for navigators.
“It’s quite a tricky leg actually, the next four or five days will be very, very tricky; light and shifty with potential for big changes on the leaderboard,’’ he said.
“It could be for a long time any boat in the west looks better, but long term it looks like an easterly set up should pay.”
Wet and wild onboard Groupama Sailing Team