VOR: On the homestretch to Auckland

Published on February 26th, 2015

(February 26, 2015; Day 19) – With Cape Reinga only 170 nautical miles to the south, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and Dongfeng Race Team are not letting up the intense duel. As of Thursday afternoon, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Azzam had just taken the lead in the fourth leg of the race from Sanya, China, to Auckland, New Zealand. Ordinarily, with less than 500 nautical miles to go to Auckland, this would be a critical lead change.

The two boats have been from 3-5nm apart and, unless one of them is lucky enough to just extend forward, these two teams will want to stay within the 10nm AIS reach. The only thing that has hindered each team in turn has been rain clouds that have altered the local meteorology.

The black, fluffy shape on the horizon has been a threat for the ranking. Sail around it and boat may escape in a squall, leaving the dark nightmare behind. Get trapped underneath and the boat may be stuck in pouring rain and no wind, which is what happened to Dongfeng Race Team. They lost the lead after sitting under a windless cloud, watching with their own eyes Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing sail by, and MAPFRE do the same thing on the radar screen.

MAPFRE has reported not feeling as fast as the two leaders so they are choosing to go their own way and find fortune in the east. They are 10nm away from the lead and opening up all the time, in third place.

The leaders have pulled ahead again for Team Brunel and Team SCA who are struggling with changeable conditions and rain clouds. Brunel must also be now looking at damage limitation and covering SCA like a cloak.

Team Alvimedica are doing a good job in the middle of all this to keep their nerves. It would way too easy to get swallowed up by some of these disruptive cloud conditions. They have maintained their position on both the leaders and the two boats 50nm behind.

The teams will now be planning their approach to the landmass of New Zealand and have been talking about less wind and a possible restart. Very soon the talking will be over and the reality will unfold. There are a lot more clouds, lulls and squalls on the way to the North Island of New Zealand.

Light winds are expected now in the finish to Auckland and a few tricky cloud formations of the kind that tripped up Dongfeng are still to be negotiated. The race organizers expect the fleet to start arriving in Auckland some time on Saturday. It will likely be another close finish, Ian Walker, skipper of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, expects, effectively, a drag race to the end.

Leg 4 (5,264 nm) Position Report (as of 21:40 UTC)
1. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, Ian Walker (GBR), 296.0 nm Distance to Finish
2. Dongfeng Race Team, Charles Caudrelier (FRA), 5.3 nm Distance to Lead
3. MAPFRE, Xabi Fernandez (ESP), 10.4 nm DTL
4. Team Alvimedica, Charlie Enright (USA), 42.5 nm DTL
5. Team Brunel, Bouwe Bekking (NED), 96 nm DTL
6. Team SCA, Sam Davies (GBR), 111.9 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 Feb. 28.

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