Monday, 19 December 2011

Low pressure torments the fleet

Like a bully in a schoolyard, holding off a small kid’s punches that never connect, a massive low pressure has been tormenting the fleet.

Each boat tried again and again to push through, but was set back into the pack again.

The low is not made up of strong, stable winds that you would expect, but of a light shifting, volatile and unpredictable mismatch of grey cloud and cold rain that makes for a sailor’s nightmare.

Frustrating sailing
From my warm dry office in the UK, it’s hard to work out what’s happening as the teams flick back and forth almost randomly with no set pattern.

I’d hazard a guess that they’ve collectively made more sail changes in this leg already than for the whole of the last one.

Team Telefónica’s navigator Andrew Cape - who is one of the most experienced sailors in this year’s edition with five previous Volvo Ocean Races appearances - said the hold-ups, plus the fluctuating winds and confused seas, have made for frustrating racing.

Stop dead
“I’m not even going to put a time on when we might get through the front,” he said.

“When you approach the front you physically stop dead in the water, and because the front’s moving at about 10-15 knots it jumps back over the top of you and you’re forever stuck in it.

“It should have been any time in the last three days but could be another two. It’s pretty frustrating, but I’ve been in these situations before and know the way it works. It’s one of those things.”

Sail round
The patience of the fleet finally snapped when Team Groupama headed south to seek her fortune while Team Sanya almost doubled back on herself to try to sail round the low to the north.

However, just as it looked like Team Sanya had made the race-winning manoeuvre, early this morning they discovered a broken shroud - and have just announced that they have retired from leg 2.  Desperately disappointed they are limping to the island of Madagascar.

The lines of communication once again kick into place as the laborious logistical task begins of getting the crew and boat safely to Abu Dhabi for the start of leg 3.
Mark Covell

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