Thursday, January 13, 2011

Barcelona World Race: Taking a long term view?

Cloud activity is increasing a little bit for the leaders, their trade winds are still quite light but they will emerge into stronger SE’lies today. As they do so – in the knowledge that they will get lifted as they go west towards the Brasilian coast – the leaders are likely to crack sheets a little to build speed.

In fact on the 0900hrs ranking this morning we have just seen Virbac-Paprec 3’s speed jump to 13.5 knots and they have made a small gain relative to second placed Foncia.

Estrella Damm in third seem to have had a very straightforward Doldrums crossing emerging with a lead of 49 miles over fourth placed MAPFRE.

In fact for this leading group there will be a strategic decision to be made over the next 24-48 hours, longer for the boats just behind, as to how they set up for the descent into the south Atlantic.

The basic options are to sail wide, west to the Brasilian coast, which will look expensive on the leader-board but making a long term investment in hooking first into a low pressure system as it is generated and being able to ride it right it fast right down into the Southern Ocean, or to sail the more direct southerly course which dices with the vagaries of the Saint Helena high pressure system.

There are risks associated with both, and both choices have not much in the way of a safety net.
On the western route if the system does not generate at just the right time you sail extra miles west and ultimately south waiting, and waiting while the opposition have sailed down inside you.
On the more direct route there is a risk of ending up upwind on the north side of the high pressure system which still holds the propensity to move east and that course becomes a cul de sac of upwind sailing.

Both decisions are based on predictions seven days down the line, and so the longer they can be postponed, as the weather models become increasingly accurate with time.

For Foncia, their hand is played for them as they choose to make their technical stop.

But what will Jean-Pierre Dick and Loïck Peyron choose to do, will they try to protect the inside lane, the direct route? Or will they see a low pressure target to aim for, stay with Foncia and prepare themselves to see their taken by anyone who chooses the direct route towards the waypoint? Decisions will certainly be easier made from behind than in front.

The gains for the group which are still in the remnants for the NE’ly trades seem to continue, Renault ZE Sailing Team and GAES both making around 35 miles on the leaders sicne last night.
Quickest boat on the rankings just now is Central Lechera Asturiana which is still hitching to the west as are Hugo Boss.

And there is disappointment for We Are Water who lost their spinnaker last night when it went in the water and go badly wrapped around their appendages.