Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Racing East to Get North

Blog from Ericsson Racing Team: By CHRIS BEDFORD - Position on the team: Meteorologist

The leverage that Puma, Telefonica Blue and Telefonica Black had in the north yesterday appears to have evaporated while sailing in slightly lighter, headed breeze and in very rough conditions. Combine that with some bad luck on Puma and Telefonica Blue and the Ericsson boats are looking good at the moment. The last several days has been as much about keeping the gear and people together as much as it has been about sailing the weather system smartly and maintaining an effective strategy.

But Ericsson Racing Team fans should NOT get cocky! Weather-wise, the boats are not out of the woods with respect to the extreme conditions they have been experiencing over the last few days. The westerlies are still screaming at 25 knots with squalls in excess of 40 knots powering the boats quickly toward the scoring line at 58E. Some easing to 20 knots is expected today through tomorrow, but the seas will remain very rough. E3 and E4 should cross the scoring line around 0100GMT early Thursday morning. At the moment, E4 has the advantage and looks set to win those points with E3 a close second…but keeping the gear and people together is a priority.

Once past the scoring gate, the next tactical problem will be turning north and heading (finally) on a more direct course to Cochin. At present, there is a cold front ahead of the fleet and a cold front behind. E3 and E4 are still sailing eastward in strong SW winds, but these will veer slightly to the W over the next 12-18 hours and eventually around to the NW tomorrow ahead of the next cold front. It is on this veering breeze that the boats are expected to turn north, hopefully getting north of a high pressure that will be chasing them down from the west.
It is a must to go around the eastern side of this high. If they don’t make it, they will be trapped to the south and face a long slow crossing of the high pressure and subsequently upwind conditions on the western periphery of the high. Again, this has been our strategy from the start, but keeping the boats moving ahead of this approaching high pressure and the related weather systems is the key to success. -