At Sea. Volvo Ocean Race: Meteorologist forecasts complicated weather ahead
Positions 1600 GMT Day 12
Photo: Positions 1600 GMT Day 12 - click picture to enlarge
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Thursday, 13 April 2006
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Caribbean cruising is about to come to an end for the Volvo Ocean Race fleet as the much discussed weather worries that have kept Mike Sanderson, skipper of leading yacht ABN AMRO ONE, occupied for the last few days are about to come to fruition according to race meteorologist Chris Bedford.

“An old cold front has gone stationary around 25 degrees north - just ahead of the fleet as they head northwest towards the Chesapeake Bay and the finish in Baltimore.

“Over the next 24 hours, winds will gradually veer from east-southeast to southeast and perhaps even south-southeast. The general trend should be for the breezes to decrease gradually with time,” he explains.

This means the crews will have to sail through a huge mass of cloud with squalls of heavy rain, gusty and variable winds, mixed with some frequent lightning for good measure. It will be extremely hard to predict the squalls and a little bit of luck will be needed.

To complicate matters, on the other side of the front, as well as a 10-knot increase in wind speed, the wind will shift to the east and north east and there will be a large area of gale force north-easterly winds north of 25 degrees north.

Increasing the fun of this leg, will be the development of multiple small low pressure waves along the stationary front, each forecast to move east-north-east along the front. “I would not be surprised to hear reports of 50 knot gusts coming from the boats as they sail north of the front,” says Bedford.

But at present, as the crews start to leave the Caribbean behind them and face the upcoming weather situation, the realisation that this edition of the Volvo Ocean Race will be concluding in two months time is causing some reflection in the fleet on their experiences and the beauty of their surroundings has not gone unnoticed. Perhaps it is enhanced by the fact that soon they will back on shore once again.

“The sunset, while not so spectacular as a green flash, was definitely a picture with the full moon high in the sky behind us, and the bright orange sun slowly slipping below the horizon. These are the sights that make being at sea so enjoyable,” writes Andy Meiklejohn from fourth placed Brasil 1 (Torben Grael). “Out here the environment is so free of all forms of pollution associated with the big cities, no traffic and industry-created smog that chokes our lungs and no bright lights to take away from nature’s crispness.”

The Southern Ocean legs now seem long ago and, as the crews enjoy the beautiful night sailing, the on deck chat is turning to the future. “On nights like this, we speak a lot about what everybody is going to do after the race,” writes Bouwe Bekking (Movistar). “It is unbelievable, but in two and a half months time this race will be finished and everyone will go their own way. Not much time for a holiday for most of us, there has to be food on the table.”

Movistar’s navigator, Andrew Cape, has been away from home since he joined the project in November 2004, only making a fleeting visit for a total of five weeks, partly due to the unscheduled break on leg one when movistar was forced to retire due to damage.

“No surprise the dog growls at me,” he laughs, and then more seriously adds, “I consider myself extremely lucky to compete in such a race. The sights I have seen, the experiences I have shared and the people I have met will never be forgotten. It will always remain a challenge and an achievement to sail around the world.”

The team spirit that the Volvo Ocean Race engenders is very special. “For sure we are getting closer as a crew as the race goes on,” explains Mike Sanderson. “We have got a great bunch of guys, and sailing with them is a pleasure to the point where I have asked them all to be my grooms-men at my marriage to Emma {Richards} in May.”

At 1600 GMT today, the gap between ABN AMRO ONE and second-placed movistar was 30 nautical miles, but movistar has the upper hand in terms of speed. At 1410 GMT this afternoon, ABN AMRO ONE bore away sharply to the west, followed at 1540 by third-placed Pirates of the Caribbean (Paul Cayard) and 15 minutes later by movistar, indicating a shift in wind direction, or maybe they just know something we don’t.
Last Updated ( Thursday, 13 April 2006 )
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