Volvo Ocean Race prepares for brutal beginning

Published on February 3rd, 2015

The 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race began in Alicante, Spain on Oct. 11, and has now completed three of the nice offshore legs. With the fleet in Asia, the fourth leg from Sanya, China to Auckland, New Zealand begins Feb. 8 with an ETA of Feb. 25-Mar. 5. Here Mark Chisnell provides a preview of the 5,264 nm leg…

From the southern tip of China to Auckland, New Zealand, we are back to racing north to south – just like Leg 1 – and we will be back to crossing distinctly different climates. The earth’s climate zones lie in horizontal bands, looping the globe, running out from the Equator to the Poles. In contrast, the previous leg was raced from west to east and remained in one climate zone – the north-east monsoon.

The north-east monsoon is also where this leg will start – but it will start by going east rather than south. In fact, the initial course lies just slightly north of due east to get across the South China Sea. The race course then runs around the northern tip of the Philippines, before the boats can turn south-east into the Pacific. They then leave Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands to starboard, before the long stretch through the South Pacific, past Vanuatu and Fiji before landing in the City of Sails.

Potentially Brutal
The opening section has the potential to be pretty brutal. Anyone who has followed the race before will remember stories of the conditions in the Luzon Strait – the stretch of water between the Philippines and Taiwan. This can be boat breaking stuff if the north-east monsoon is blowing strongly down the South China Sea.

We’re a long way out from the restart – this is written five days before the gun goes – but the current forecast says that the north-east monsoon will be blowing good and hard on Sunday. Anyone on those boats prone to seasickness needs to stock up on the strong medicine before the re-start.

Turning South
The first couple of days will be all about getting the boats in one piece across to the Philippines and safely around the top so they can turn south. A deep depression is starting to spin up in the middle of the north Pacific, and it will maintain a strong north to north-easterly breeze blowing down the eastern side of the Philippines. So once they turn to head south-east, the wind angle will open to a reach and there should be some seriously fast days as they head for the Solomon Islands.

This is where it will start to get more tactical. They will sail south away from the influence of that low pressure system, which is also forecast to move north-east and fill. The wind will start to drop out, and the teams will be faced with their third crossing of the Doldrums, which should lie somewhere around the latitude of the Solomons.

Doldrums Again… read on

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