Spring in the Southern Ocean

Published on March 20th, 2015

(March 20, 2015; Day 4) – As forecast, the wind for the Volvo Ocean Race has started to drop in the last 12 hours and the breeze is now between 15 and 20 knots blowing from the southwest. The fleet is sailing upwind, but the moderation in weather may have come just in time for some of the teams.

“Today the spring season started onboard Team Brunel,” reported Stefan Coppers. “Not that there suddenly were girls in short skirts at the bow, or that the crew had pale lager in their bellies. Yet it felt like spring.

“Yesterday felt like winter, and the most oppressive cold miserable day you could imagine with that. A nasty 27-knot wind welcomed the crew from the very moment they entered the waters of the Southern Ocean.

“To make matters worse Pam had left some 8-metre waves behind, waves like water walls. A quarter of the crew was fighting seasickness. Another quarter had long lost that battle. Even skipper Bouwe Bekking didn’t eat for 48 hours, remarking, ‘I think I will be lost if I took one bite’.”

Being the boat farthest north, Alvimedica has been grabbing the extra knots of breeze they need to keep leading the way to the east, extending their lead in the last 12 hours.

So now that the teams are not anymore chasing the tail of ex-Cyclone Pam, the strategy ahead consists of dealing with the high-pressure system located southeast of New Zealand that could potentially catch them and reduce their breeze.

One of the options was to tack south to find stronger breeze, an option taken by MAPRE, SCA, and Dongfeng, but Alvimedica, Brunel, and Abu Dhabi continue to gain as they extend east on starboard tack.

The forecast is for the wind to veer and shift back right as they overtake the old high-pressure system and meet a new low moving into the fleet’s path. This would explain the repositioning by the trailing fleet, keen to get right again. We may see a few more bites at the apple as some boats take more tacks to the south.

Abu Dhabi, which a day ago had been the southernmost boat, has succeeded in working north to return to their conservative, center of the pack position.

The low ahead is still more than 24 hours away, so this is a slow burner with the added gift of colder winds and dropping sea temperatures.

Course change: Based on new iceberg information, the ice gate has been moved north. Details here.

Forecast: Weather experts PredictWind.com have put some thought into the next few days. Details here.

Leg 5 (6,776 nm) Position Report (18:40 UTC)
1. Team Alvimedica, Charlie Enright (USA), 5703.9 nm Distance to Finish
2. Team Brunel, Bouwe Bekking (NED), 3.3 nm Distance to Lead
3. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, Ian Walker (GBR), 16.1 nm DTL
4. MAPFRE, Xabi Fernandez (ESP), 41.4 nm DTL
5. Team SCA, Sam Davies (GBR), 46.0 nm DTL
6. Dongfeng Race Team, Charles Caudrelier (FRA), 47.2 DTL
7. Team Vestas Wind, Chris Nicholson (AUS), Did not start

Race websiteTrackingScoreboardVideosCrew list

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 fifth leg, from Auckland, NZL to Itajaí, Brazil (6,776 nm), began March 18 with an ETA of approximately April 4.

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