Volvo navigators place their bets as fleet approaches no-wind zone
Groupama (Franck Cammas/FRA) have closed to within 11 nautical miles of leg
leader Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR) as the wind fades for the final
300-nm push to the finish of this Atlantic leg from Miami in the United States,
to Lisbon in Portugal.
In the path of the fleet lies a no-wind ridge
around 200 nm wide and running more or less north/south. It’s a fairly unusual
feature in this part of the world and the entry and exit points for this
penultimate stumbling block could be the leg decider. The bets have been placed
and the fleet has split accordingly, committing to their strategies.
the south, and shaving the corner towards the finish, are Groupama, Telefónica
(Iker Martínez/ESP) and CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris
Nicholson/AUS). In the north are Abu Dhabi, PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG
(Ken Read/USA) and Sanya (Mike Sanderson/NZL). It will be around midnight when
the fleet will be in the lightest winds as they reach the centre of the
Speaking on a live video call from the boat this afternoon, PUMA
skipper Ken Read commented that he thought the south was looking promising and
that Groupama’s positioning in particular was "sweet". Abu Dhabi’s watch leader,
Rob Greenhalgh said today that his team had already chosen their entry point to
the north some days ago.
Tonight has the potential to be a ‘hero to zero’
situation, where an element of luck is certainly involved. The team that reaches
the Portuguese trade winds on the other side of the ridge first will have a huge
advantage, however there is one final obstacle still to overcome. The finish
line is set in the River Tagus, close to Lisbon’s harbour entrance. The river is
narrow with a strong current, which will add a final element of complexity to
what has not been a straightforward dash across the Atlantic on the 3,590 nm
Already the breeze is down to around 11 knots as the fleet
reach towards the coast with as much canvas as they can set: full mainsails,
genoa staysails and large code zeros. At 1900 GMT Groupama were 10.4 nm behind
Abu Dhabi in second place. PUMA had remained static in third place (+14.6 nm),
but sailing a knot faster than the Emiratis, while CAMPER, sailing faster still,
had gained a mile and risen above Telefónica to occupy fourth place (+26.1 nm).
Telefónica, the current overall race leader were 28.4 nm off the lead, with
Sanya 13 miles astern and 41.5 miles adrift of Abu Dhabi.
Chris Nicholson summed up the play when he said, “It’s one where you should keep
your enemies fairly close. It will go down to the wire, but there’s still an
awful lot to play out.”
The first boat is expected to cross the finish
around 2200 GMT on Thursday, with the possibility of the entire fleet finishing
with an hour of each other.
- VOR Media