Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing leads the charge

As navigators eye up this weekend's cyclone encounter in the Volvo Ocean Race

Wednesday November 26th 2014, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

Ian Walker, navigator Simon Fisher and the crew of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing did a masterful job negotating the west side of the high pressure system that has since slunk off to the southeast. At lunchtime on Monday, the fleet en masse gybed out of the west side of the high and at this point Walker's team was positioned further to the west and found better pressure sooner and by the evening had overhauled Team Brunel, in terms of DTF, pulling into the lead.

Yesterday with the breeeze backing into the north, the boats tacked on to a ENEerly heading where the upwind slog has begun. The change in wind direction has come about due to the fleet's proximity to a weak depression currently centred to the south of Madagascar.

The Abu Dhabi crew did well to keep in front after the tack, able to take up a berth to the north of the fleet and sailing slightly cracked compared to the competition over the last 24 hours they have slowly converged with the fleet and at present the UAE boat is some 29 miles northwest of MAPFRE, which is leading the charge east among the southerly group - no doubt with some relief for skipper Iker Martinez after the Spanish team's dismal performance on the opening leg.

Distance the mark off the Seychelles at 06:40 UTC

Pos Boat DTF
1 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing  
2 MAPFRE 2.84
3 Dongfeng Race Team 8.39
4 Team Brunel 8.69
5 Team Alvimedica 11.04
6 Team Vestas Wind 12.43
7 Team SCA 25.89

At present the boats are doing well, upwind but staying in a band of pressure between the depression to their west and the giant high to their southeast. As was the case on Monday, the navigators are currently pouring over the GRIBs tracking the movement of the tropical cyclone to their north. At present this is centred some 400 miles due east of Mauritius and the GFS forecast has its centre moving in a southwesterly course moving at around 240 miles/day (see illustration below). So the key question will be - when to tack north on to a heading that will take the boats into the west side of the depression enabling them to slingshot themselves north. At present it looks like the boat will be negotiating the cyclone mid-way between Madagascar and Mauritius. Here's to the forecast not changing too much...

Images courtesy of Expedition and Predictwind

Mike Knighton reports from Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing:

As Azzam pounds through the steep, irregular waves of the southern Indian Ocean, you can feel her carbon fibre shell flex with every hit. Typically, the slamming from wave to wave is a soft thud; however every 20 waves or so a loud crash deafens your ears as the floor drops out from beneath you. All you can do is hold on and brace. It’s testing conditions as we beat our way upwind attempting to gain angle and bearing on the rest of the fleet.

On deck, the spray is impossible to avoid. At least in the Southern Ocean the swells can be timed and you can brace for impact. Right now the sea state is so confused you’ll be hit by stinging spray from the side without ever seeing it coming.

When asked to describe the beat down, Daryl was quick with his analogy; “It’s probably like being in an upturned bathtub with someone banging on the outside with a hammer.”

Halfway through his watch, the bilge water alarm starts blaring. There’s seawater in the bow.

Quickly running below deck, Parko and Daryl both climb through the forward hatch into the darkened bow to find themselves knee deep in garbage and water. A drain fitting has broken loose causing the J3 tack to leak into the forward compartment where we keep our refuse. With the carbon fibre jumping underneath them, several team members grabbed buckets and spent the better part of 30 minutes draining the bow. A minor repair that initially looked much worse.

With a face covered in saltwater, Daryl explains, “I opened up the hatch and the garbage and water pretty much splashed me in the face immediately.”


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