Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Challenging straits prove weatherman's nightmare

I have looked back at the video of the re-start of leg 3 part 2. Six boats eagerly jostled for small gains and psychological advantage. Six skippers interviewed were all optimistic.

PUMA Ocean Racing's Jono Swain looks at the
sails while Ken Read surveys the sea with binoculars
Photo: Amory Ross/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race
The last word was left to the skipper of Team Sanya an old hand at this game, Mike Sanderson.

“It’s nice to get away cleanly but the start doesn’t mean much, Sanya here we come” he said, still concentrating on helming. 

Team Sanya
That comment has been true for most of the boats as they have traded places many times and almost re-started again as the conditions forced the fleet to concertina together.

The one boat that it did not apply to was Team Sanya.

They have struggled to stay in touch with fleet and now trail over 170 nm from the leader.

Physical challenge
The light winds and current against the fleet in the Strait of Malacca have been incredibly demanding for all the fleet.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing skipper, Ian Walker said that while the straits had been mentally taxing, he believed the South China Sea would be physically challenging.

Team Telefónica watch captain Neal McDonald said the crew had been awake for 20 hours in the past 24 and completed as many as 12 gybe manoeuvres in one hour as they negotiated the exit from the strait and defended attacks from other competitors.

Pushing hard
The promise of open water and upwind conditions was proving motivating for the team, McDonald explained.

“It’s quite intense. You can make a mistake so easily and it could cost miles,’’ he said of the Malacca and Singapore straits.

“There is a lot of pressure to keep pushing the boat hard and make sure you do the right thing all the time."

Shipping congestion
The right thing all the time! That's easier said than done when so much is out side your control.

At least the fleet can now leave the taxing light airs and shipping congestion of the Malacca Straits behind them.

They still have unlit fishing nets, flotsam and jetsam and short sharp seas whipped up by strong winds to go.

GRIB file
This leg has been a weatherman’s nightmare. Every three hours they will be eagerly waiting for the GRIB file. The GRIdded Binary is a mathematically-concise data format file sent to each boat every three hours.

This last 900 nm will sort the weathermen from the weatherboys.  Sanya here we come!

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