Tired Teams Jostle At ‘Second Start Line’
Strong winds and rain squalls from an unstable trough have created a “second start line” amongst the Volvo Ocean Race fleet as the six yachts continue to shuffle positions, proving that the race to Abu Dhabi remains anyone’s to win.
PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG skipper Ken Read described the conditions as some of the most frustrating and mentally exhausting of his sailing career as the fleet continue to sail at the same pace as the menacing trough.
The crews have reported the wind dropping to less than 10 knots and just minutes later gusting in excess of 25, making for countless sail changes and exhausted sailors, who are virtually falling asleep standing up.
Read said despite more than 160 nautical mile distance developing between leg leader Telefónica in the north and Groupama sailing team in the south, the unpredictable conditions meant there was very little separating the fleet.
“It is anyone’s race, more so than any race I’ve been in in my life,’’ he said. “This is crazy. It’s 100 per cent a second start line.”
“It’s been hard and very taxing mentally trying to deal with it all. Each time we sit here and talk about it we make an argument that we would rather be further north or further south.
“Just a little while about I said to Tom (Addis), ‘We were talking about gybing earlier this morning to get further north, do you remember why?’ and he said, ‘No I don’t’ remember why anymore’. So I think it’s going to be very interesting.”
Team Telefónica’s helmsman Jordi Calafat agreed, saying that the leg had only just started and there were plenty more challenges ahead as his team lead the fleet east towards the Indian Ocean high.
However, Telefónica have had their own challenges on board, including the loss of skipper Iker Martínez’s toothbrush after the Olympic gold medallist, no doubt exhausted, applied skin cream instead of toothpaste.
Media Crew Member Diego Fructuoso reported that Martínez had fortunately packed a spare – a report that goes against the long-standing sailing myth that sailors never take two, and even cut off the end of their toothbrushes to save on weight.
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing were trailing in second place by just under 20 nm at 1300 UTC, followed by Team Sanya, PUMA, CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand and Groupama sailing team, who are trailing by 130 nm in the south.
At 0900 UTC today it appeared that Groupama were cashing in their losses when the team tacked and headed north, however just 20 nm later they tacked back to an easterly course.
Skipper Franck Cammas explained the move: “There is a possibility to cross the trough in the north tomorrow night, and we are trying to reduce the gap to cross it with the others.
"Our idea at first was to go south, we had a long term strategy there. We worked on that for the past two or three days. The other ones have been more pragmatic and stayed in the middle.
“Now, to try to cross with the other ones tomorrow night, we have decided to get closer from the fleet.
“It was a tough and unpleasant decision. But at some point you need to limit the risk and not to lock yourself in an option, which was good at first and is now not as relevant because of this opening in the north.
“We are all on a same longitude so everyone will in a funnel to cross that very small hole. It will be a new start Saturday morning.”
Volvo meteorologist Gonzalo Infante said the next 24 hours would continue to prove frustrating for the sailors. More stable winds could be expected when the trough dissipates as it meets a high-pressure system over the weekend.