At sea. Volvo Ocean Race: Ericsson now 30 nautical miles behind Pirates and closing Print E-mail
Friday, 14 April 2006
Annabel Merrison:

The Volvo Ocean Race fleet has sailed out of the trade winds and is getting into the North American frontal regime. Ericsson managed to negotiate the change well, and has gained a place in the ranking. The fleet leaders are now positioned 950 nautical miles east of Miami and 1,000 miles away from Baltimore.

A whole new race is starting in the Atlantic Ocean, with the six competitors trying to use the transition between the trade winds and the North American frontal regime to the best of their advantage. "It looks like there are a few transitions ahead, so hopefully that will bring opportunities", comments Ericsson Racing Team skipper John Kostecki.

There can indeed be big gains in these variable downwind conditions if the navigators manage to pick the right side of the shifts, but get it wrong and the losses can be equally huge. ABN AMRO One still leads the fleet. The Dutch boat is currently sailing on a north-easterly course, with only 6 knots of wind, whilst all the other boats sail a more direct northerly course and benefit from more wind. During the night, Ericsson managed to sail past Brasil 1 and is currently fourth on the leaderboard. It has reduced its deficit to the Pirates of the Caribbean to just 30 nautical miles and is sailing 163 miles behind the leader (at the 1000 GMT position report).

The Volvo Ocean Race fleet is now in the centre of a slow moving front, which is casting light winds, heavy rain and thunderstorms on the competitors. As Chris Tibbs, Meteorologist for the Ericsson Racing Team explains: "The race is now on to pass north of the developing low pressure and into the stronger winds on the north-west side of the low. The first boat into this will extend its lead as the wind backs to the east or north-east at around 20 knots.

"Once the low has been negotiated there will be a boost for the first boats past. However, this will be short lived as a ridge of high pressure stretches from the Gulf of Mexico to Bermuda. There are light variable winds expected in this ridge. The ridge is moving slowly south-easterly, being pushed by low pressure over the US.

Tibbs continues: "Once through the ridge the boats will face strong west-south-westerly winds, making life on board uncomfortable as the boats come hard on the wind in 25-30 knots. All is not plain sailing as the depression moves away and slack low pressure with variable wind is expected over the Chesapeake Bay for the final approaches to the finish."

So the teams have a bit of a minefield to tackle over the next couple of days. The wind will largely die out as they approach the Chesapeake giving light tricky conditions for the last 100 miles; which the Bay is renowned for. According to Tibbs, "there are still a number of depressions developing over the US and the timing of these in relation to the arrival of the fleet will make a big difference to the amount of wind and its direction."

Daily Log Written by John Kostecki (USA):

We finally got on to port gybe today, for the first time in at least a week. To be honest it has been such a long time that I have actually lost track of when we were on port tack. We are 1250 miles from the mouth of the Chesapeake and we have now entered the last phase of this leg, exiting the trade winds and getting into the North American frontal regime. It looks like a few transitions ahead, so hopefully that will bring opportunity.

Not a lot of wild life on this leg - flying fish and a few dolphins here and there. The flying fish, are a little bit of a problem for us as over the last week, they have flown on to the deck and into the sail bags. The fish are so small and hard to find, that we end up not finding the fish. This makes some pretty smelly sails, which is not too bad when they are on deck, but when they come below in light airs it can get very stinky.

We are all looking forward to getting to Baltimore. We are already talking about attending the Orioles games and other fun activities in the city and around the waterfront.
Last Updated ( Friday, 14 April 2006 )
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