Brazil to right, St Helena to the left, Compression ahead

Leg 1 Photo by Amory Ross/Team Alvimedica

There are a few instances during the Volvo Ocean Race when the position report can be highly misleading. Today is one of those days. When the lead boats are gybing to starboard, sailing away from the finish, it has a way of scrambling the standings.

While the navigators are struggling with what to do with the St. Helena High, which is in between the fleet and the finish, at least the sailing conditions along the high’s western side are easily tolerable.

“We’re basking in the traditional tradewinds, serving up a gorgeous dosage of twenty-knot perfection squarely on the beam,” reports Amory Ross on Team Alvimedica. “An occasional cloud brings a bit of Brazilian fever, a quick reef and some warm water over the deck, but on the whole these days are exactly what you have in mind when you sign up for this race. Dare I suggest: downwind perfection.”

The problem with the rankings right now is the closer you get to the finish, the closer you get to the effects of the High. Read: No wind. But with the wind direction from the northeast, the port gybe has brought Abu Dhabi, Brunel, Vestas, and Dongfeng too close to the High’s edge, which has led to a busy day of gybing on shifts to minimize mileage loss to the boat’s behind.

“It is anything but clear concerning our passage between here and Cape Town,” admits Vestas skipper Chris Nicholson. “The weather is very uncertain, and I expect there now to be a compression of the fleet. There is so much more racing to go.”

So the fleet heads south, roughly right angles to the finish line, seeking to get under the High in hopes of riding the Southern Ocean freight train across. Abu Dhabi is the deepest of the fleet, but they are only at 24 degrees south. The fleet will be somewhere in the 30s before making the turn east.

The teams are now positioning for the turn. When to make it could decide the leg.

Leg 1 Position Report (as of 18:40 UTC)
1. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, Ian Walker (GBR), 2760.4 nm Distance to Finish
2. Team Brunel, Bouwe Bekking (NED), 12.5 nm Distance to Lead
3. Team Alvimedica, Charlie Enright (USA), 64.0 nm DTL
4. Dongfeng Race Team, Charles Caudrelier (FRA), 81.5 nm DTL
5. Team Vestas Wind, Chris Nicholson (AUS), 110.0 nm DTL
6. Mapfre, Iker Martinez (ESP), 167.7 nm DTL
7. Team SCA, Sam Davies (GBR), 175.7 DTL


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