Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Team Russia pushes East...

Mark Covell/Team Russia
Buffalo Gals

It’s D-Day this morning as the Volvo Ocean Race fleet sails into the dark shadow of the shape shifting Doldrums. Everyone was still reaching north in the trade winds, except Team Russia – they chose to head out East, in a move that appears to be paying off.

At 10:00 GMT this morning the fleet had scattered – there were a 180 miles of leverage between the two extremes in the east and west. Inside left were PUMA and Green Dragon, while on the right, Team Russia were definitely attack minded.

As the boats enter the Doldrums, the True Wind Speed will drop for everyone, but it’s dropped more for the boats to the north - that includes the Ericsson leaders. While those behind them are still enjoying wind speeds in the teens.

The wind had also started to back (rotate anti-clockwise) and was a little bit north of east for most of the fleet. The tightening True Wind Angle really will not do any favours for Green Dragon (without their boom) or Telefonica Blue (without their daggerboard). So a squeeze box effect will happen.

The real interest this morning lies in the future. Race Forecaster, Jennifer Lilly, has confirmed the arrival of the leaders on the edge of the Doldrums at 9degS. She’s expecting the lightest wind between 5degS and 3degS, with the transition to a west-southwesterly flow over the equator. The worst of the squall activity is also mostly north of the equator, although it’s relatively benign at the moment, while the best of the wind remains to the east.

And that brings us to the eastward drift of the fleet and Team Russia’s track. It’s very clear which side the weather forecast favours – west is not best in this ocean. In fact, the weather routing has the Russians doing the Buffalo Gals (go round the outside) to end all Buffalo Gals – catching PUMA and Telefonica Blue on the run in to battle for third place.

Although Team Russia’s crossing point is a long detour, the prize may well we worth waiting for. And if the unreliability of the Doldrums forecast is in any way reliable, it’s in the fact that the crossing point in the Predicted Route keeps moving further East. Team Russia’s new crossing point is at almost 79degE - it’s a long detour, but the weather forecast now thinks that it’ll only give them six hours or so of really light, sub-five knot wind speed compared with the good 24 hours the Ericssion twins look set to face.

Go Wouter the Routeur ….

Read more news at Team Russia's web site.