Big decisions ahead in the Gulf of Oman
Published on December 9th, 2014
(December 9, 2014; Day 21) – With a finish in Abu Dhabi on Saturday now likely, the top three Volvo Ocean Race teams have a lock on the podium steps when they reach the finish. But in which order will they finish? As Team Brunel continues to grow their lead on the fleet, there remains optimism that the deck of cards has one more shuffle in it.
Brunel has just over 100nm before reaching the eastern tip of Oman, and it is here where the fleet enters the Gulf of Oman and the Strait of Harmuz, and when the steady northeasterlies get replaced by the whims of Mother Nature. These are also the waters where Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing trained, so skipper Ian Walker knows some of the challenges that lie ahead.
“In any weather condition it’s tricky as you have very high land left and right,” notes Walker. “There is a 2000+ meter mountain on your left. We’re talking the heights of a European ski resort, and we’ll be right underneath it and trying to sail around it. Likewise on the Iranian side there is very high land.
“So these land masses will be playing havoc with the wind. This area is very unpredictable. I wouldn’t be surprised to see boats stuck in flat calm for periods of hours. In fact, during our training in this region, I don’t think we ever sailed through there without having to motor at some point to keep us moving.
“So the geography will be a factor, but adding to this is that the forecast is for very light winds. So there will be some big decisions to make. You could decide to hug the Omani coast where there can be a lot of local winds. Or, the GRIB files are tending to push you toward the Iranian coast on completely the other side. Which side you go, and when you cross … these are big decisions to make.”
In the second half of the fleet, Team Alvimedica admits their tactics need to improve. “When things aren’t really straight forward, and we have to ad-lib, I think that is one of our weaknesses,” shared skipper Charlie Enright.
But the team is starting to sense progress in this department
“Ever since leaving Vestas we’ve quietly gone about our business, trying to be less erratic, less reactionary and more confident in our game plan, and in this case it seems to have worked,” observes onboard reporter Amory Ross. “Maybe it’s that we felt we had less to lose, restarting from the back of the fleet, but it’s vindicating for sure.”
Leg 2 Position Report (as of 21:40 UTC)
1. Team Brunel, Bouwe Bekking (NED), 604.4 nm Distance to Finish
2. Dongfeng Race Team, Charles Caudrelier (FRA), 12.0 nm Distance to Lead
3. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, Ian Walker (GBR), 40.8 nm DTL
4. Team Alvimedica, Charlie Enright (USA), 325.6 nm DTL
5. MAPFRE, Iker Martinez (ESP), 340.4 nm DTL
6. Team SCA, Sam Davies (GBR), 448.0 nm DTL
7. Team Vestas Wind, Chris Nicholson (AUS), Suspended racing
Background: The 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race began in Alicante, Spain on Oct. 11 with the final finish on June 27 in Gothenburg, Sweden. Racing the new one design Volvo Ocean 65, seven teams will be scoring points in 9 offshore legs to determine the overall Volvo Ocean Race winner. Additionally, the teams will compete in 10 In-Port races at each stopover for a separate competition – the Volvo Ocean Race In-Port Series. The second offshore leg from Cape Town, SA to Abu Dhabi, UAE is 6,125 nm, started Nov. 19 with an ETA of Dec. 9-16.