North or South? Standing by for the answer.

Published on February 12th, 2015

(February 12, 2015; Day 5) – It was a few days ago when Team SCA and Team Brunel tacked away from Philippines, away from the pack, away from the finish in Auckland, and up north toward Taiwan to where they felt they would line up for more wind to take them east.

Now that the Volvo Ocean Race fleet has made their bed, it’s time to puff their pillows and lie on them.

“I can imagine all our fans think we are crazy, but when you believe in something and you see facts, you have to trust yourself,” explained Brunel skipper Bouwe Bekking.

Even race meteorologist Gonzalo Infante agreed with the tactic. “The weather models say they have got it right, but it will be six or seven days – or even more – before we know for sure.”

So why didn’t the group now to the south – Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, MAPFRE, Alvimedica and Dongfeng – do the same? Turns out that Dongfeng, which was leading at the time, wanted to but skipper Charles Caudrelier resisted.

“Our navigator Erwan Israël was convinced that option north was the good one, but after three legs where sailing close to the direct route proved to be good, I didn’t manage to switch mode and preferred to stay with the group. We were leading and in a strong position when the moment to choose came, so it wasn’t easy turning 90 degrees off the route. Nobody seemed to want to do that around us either.”

As both packs now head east on a port reach, with 150 nm separation, the northern duo have halved the deficit in the past 24 hours, but a recent sheer in the wind might take some of that back.

At some point everyone needs to turn southeast, and while the high road is riding a northerly, the four boats to the south are enjoying a 30 degree header. That kind of shift could be significant if sustained.

Like any leader dealing with a fleet that splits on an upwind leg, Caurelier knows there is only so much you can control. “Now the game is to finish first of the south group, and we’ll see if the gap between south and north allows us to beat them.”

Leg 4 (5,264 nm) Position Report (as of 21:40 UTC)
1. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, Ian Walker (GBR), 4482.7 nm Distance to Finish
2. MAPFRE, Xabi Fernandez (ESP), 2.3 nm Distance to Lead
3. Dongfeng Race Team, Charles Caudrelier (FRA), 3.4 nm DTL
4. Team Alvimedica, Charlie Enright (USA), 3.9 nm DTL
5. Team Brunel, Bouwe Bekking (NED), 54.9 nm DTL
6. Team SCA, Sam Davies (GBR), 71.0 nm DTL
7. Team Vestas Wind, Chris Nicholson (AUS), Did not start

Race websiteTrackingScoreboardVideos

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 fourth leg, from Sanya, China to Auckland, New Zealand (5,264 nm), began Feb. 8 with an ETA of Mar. 1-5.

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