Light winds encourage different tactics en route to Bali

While the Fremantle-Bali Race frontrunners Indian and Walk on the Wild Side continue their express train ride the leaders of the main following fleet Audeamus and Sue Sea are choosing to adopt opposite courses as they prepare to sail around an area of light winds settled between them and their finish line off Benoa in Bali.

World wind models all indicate an area of light winds and varying size stretching like a pointer to Bali out of Exmouth Gulf. Sailing into this area could put an end to any podium finish aspirations and Audeamus and Sue Sea are both fully aware of this. Therein however the similarity ends as Sue Sea has decided to sail west around the area and Audeamus has chosen the easterly course. That both boats have taken such a varying approach to the same problem indicates they are both hoping to not just miss the light air chasm but also find stronger breezes and better sailing angles into the Trades. 

The young 25 year old skipper of Audeamus, Lisa Chamberlain, has played her hand very well so far in this race currently lying third in IRC and YAH and is certainly doing her old mentor Justin Kelleher proud in this her second Fremantle to Bali. 

Sue Sea on her westerly course would seem however to have possibly taken the better approach particularly when viewing the wind predictions from the comfort of an armchair. Brian Todd, Sue Sea’s skipper is a veteran of at least three Fremantle to Bali races and with an experienced crew around him will be using all that prior knowledge in his decision making. The next 24 hours will allow us to see how these two varying approaches play out and for all the supporters of both yachts there may be much to lament or enjoy.

Not too far behind these yachts and with a very strong claim on a top finishing position is Paul Arns’ Wasabi with Andrew Harry as part of the crew.  Andrew was the crew boss on the race record holder Super Sled in the 2013 race and is the principal helmsman on Wasabi bringing many miles of ocean racing experience to an already seasoned and well experienced crew. Wasabi’s  current 4th position in IRC, while probably not its preferred placing, is still one that would give them great heart in making up corrected time ground on Audeamus and Sue Sea 80nm ahead of her. 

The big challenge however for all the boats in the main fleet are the light southerlies they are currently sailing in with boats, as a consequence, experiencing speeds as low as 3-4 knots with some such as John Holder’s Plus16 as low as 1-2 knots.  

Help is on the horizon however as winds are predicted to increase to the 10-12knot range in early afternoon and while still blowing from the south they are sure to be very welcome on all the yachts and should see all the race and rally yachts put some serious northing behind them.

Overnight the lead yachts Indian and Walk on the Wild Side experienced lighter winds and a consequent drop in boat speeds and still this morning are only managing speeds of 8-9knots. This loss of speed at this crucial time in the race while giving some hope to the following pack has meant the race record may have slipped from their grasp unless the next 500 miles to the finish produce some exceptional sailing conditions which with the SE Trades in full voice they could well receive.

To track the fleet on their progress to Bali follow the race via the Yellow Brick Trackers here:

 – Report prepared Les Valmadre

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