Volvo Ocean Race – Riders on the Storm
In the final Leg Review for Leg 2 Mark Chisnell mentioned the old strategic rule: keep going south till it’s blowing 40 knots, then turn left and hang on. How does that stand-up now?
The point was that the fastest route for this leg has always been to get south away from the influence of the high pressure and its light winds, and down into the Storm Track, where the fleet can find big breeze and bigger waves to speed them eastwards.
And MAPFRE did just that to win Leg 2.
So the opening couple of days of this leg are once again about transitioning into a new climate zone, into the Storm Track, and they will be crucial for establishing the pecking order as the fleet head across the Southern Ocean.
The strategic goal will be to keep the boat in the band of strong north-westerly winds to the north-east of the centre of a low, riding with it as it moves east towards Australia.
They don’t want to get too close to the centre, especially if it’s a really, deep powerful low as the boat will get hammered and they could break gear.
The predicted Image for 20:00 on the Wednesday 13 December we can see that things have changed with frightening speed.
If your reaction to that picture isn’t a sharp intake of breath then check your pulse for signs of life.
The new low pressure system is now fully formed and it’s a monster. That purple churning maw will be coming at them from the north-west and it will hunt them down.
It will fling them east and it will be all about seamanship and nerve – holding the boat together and staying fast.
And the biggest strategic problem will be the Exclusion Zone.
Once that low pressure slams into them they will reaching with 30-40 knots on their beam and they will be converging with the Exclusion Zone – just visible to the south of the fleet in the Image.
To stay north and above the Zone they may have to harden up, narrow their wind angle. Sailing closer to the wind can be both dangerous and slow in that much breeze and big waves.
So it’s going to be really important not to get too far south too early, and the position of that gybe will be critical to both speed and safety.
It’s going to be a major few days in the story of this race, do not adjust your set… Mark Chisnell
Volvo Ocean race – Leg 3 – Tuesday 12 December @ 19:00 UTC
1. Dongfeng Race Team — distance to finish — 5,002 nautical miles
2. MAPFRE +5.1 nm
3. Vestas 11th Hour Racing +6.2 nm
4. team AkzoNobel +6.4 nm
5. Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag +7.5 nm
6. Team Brunel +12.2 nm
7. Turn the Tide on Plastic +13 nm
* Riders on the Storm – The Doors