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VOLVO OCEAN RACE / Leg 4

Decisions, decisions… before rounding cape Horn

dimanche 10 février 2002Information Volvo Ocean Race

Tactics and strategy for the navigators and tacticians on the Volvo Ocean Race Volvo Ocean Race #VolvoOceanRace are never easy at the best of times. Weather routing : which weather model to choose or adapt ? Boat to boat tactics and strategy : which is the favoured side where we want to be for the next shift, which could be well over 100 miles or 24 hours away. Land ahead : how best to avoid it, by taking the maximum gain without hitting the bricks in some cases, or making the optimum landfall, again from a considerable distance, which could even be from 500 miles away. Currents and tides : how to use them to the maximum advantage whether they are local or even ocean. Most racing sailors will at some time in their careers, have had to assimilate information, absorb it like a sponge and then produce the right output, but this is with very basic information in comparison to the V.O.60 navigators, slaving over a bank of computers and electronics and loaded down with almost too much information.

Add into the equation a land mass such as Cape Horn, together with its own local conditions, and the fast changing weather patterns of the Southern Ocean, which the fleet are just leaving, and you provide a full time job for two people with no difficulty. "I have been real busy working on the routing, the sail chart and the polars [angles for optimum boat speed]… The amount of information now available is unbelievable. Several grib files and 200 weather maps, satellite pictures, and other sources of information, every day. You can definitely keep two people busy 24 hours a day analysing this stuff," wrote Paul Cayard from Amer Sports One earlier in this leg.

On the approach into Cape Horn, News Corp opted for a northerly route and Ross Field wrote, "It is a very critical time at the moment as we’re gybing downhill to Cape Horn. We’re working on the weather to make sure that we have a good approach. Each sked that comes in provides us with valuable information on the movements of the other boats. illbruck and Amer Sports One have made their move to the north, whilst Tyco and ASSA ABLOY stayed south. We still believe that the northerly position is good."

Tyco, lost out a little in the south, in part due to blowing out two spinnakers, "Having survived the rigours of the Southern Ocean properly, we have just had a very bad period losing to the boats around us through sail damage and other mishaps," reported Steve Hayles.

Onboard djuice, the first timers were anticipating the rounding of Cape Horn, "Onboard spirits are pretty high since we have quite a few crewmembers that haven’t been around the Horn before. They all want to see it. I just want to get around it and start sailing towards home (Europe)," wrote Mikael Lundh.

From Amer Sports One yesterday, Paul Cayard summed up the difficulties of the calls on the best route forward at the time, and how sometimes, just one windshift can block off any other option, "The big strategy game was how far south to go for the long port gybe into the Horn. All models agreed that at some point you had to get down on the port layline as there will be a right shift over the last 500 miles in and less wind at the Horn so you want to come in hot. The question was how soon to hit that layline. 500 miles is a long layline to call."

From 477 miles away, things were looking good for the boats in the north, he continued, "So we are all locked in and waiting for the answer. So far the upper middle looks good, with us and illbruck making big gains on ASSA ABLOY and Tyco, but News Corp is still gaining on us. The wind could be lighter at the Horn and the guys on the outside may come on strong. Also, Tyco and ASSA ABLOY may have a plan to take the Horn and Falklands Islands wide to the east to set up their run up to Rio. If this is the case we will not be able to make a judgement on their positioning for a few days."

With the benefit of hindsight, the final outcome of this tactical decision is that illbruck, having sailed a near perfect leg has romped away from the majority of the fleet, rounding at 0838 GMT this morning. Amer Sports One was not far behind at 1348 GMT, followed by Tyco less than three minutes later. News Corp in fourth position lead ASSA ABLOY, who rounded at 1526 GMT by 12 minutes. The next major decision for the boats is inside or outside the Falkland Islands.

For now the options are being calculated extremely carefully ; all the variables are being weighed up and checked again and again before any calls are made. Paul Cayard, wrote of their and illbruck’s imminent rounding of the Horn and the tidal scenario, "The current in the Estrecha de la Mer can be very strong... up to five knots on spring tide, which is what we have. At night the wind can be very light and fickle so one could get parked there in an adverse current pretty well."

"It looks to me like illbruck is perfectly positioned to make a big gain down here. Their 60 mile lead will get them into the Estrecha, if they chose to, with about 16-18 knots wind and just before the maximum northerly flow. We will arrive 5-6 hours later, with 5-7 knots in the Estrecha and a foul current. That will hold us up and let the boats behind catch up while illbruck will be off toward the Falklands at pace. We may have to consider the outside of Isla de los Estados because this could create a breakaway opportunity for illbruck, just like we did four years ago."

So perhaps the tidal gate will allow illbruck to break free and the rest of the fleet to close up still further. After the rigours of the Southern Ocean, the crews are going to have to work extremely hard to gain places in the second stage of leg four.


Volvo Ocean Race Position Report, Day 15, 0959 GMT

PS Yacht Latitude Longitude DTF CMG SMG TFHR DTL DTL-C ETA PO
- 1 ILBK 55 54.44S 066 50.72W 02240 057 14.0 383 0 0 18 FEB 02 29
- 2 AONE 56 05.72S 068 42.84W 02302 062 13.5 353 62 +4 18 FEB 02 25
- 3 TYCO 56 44.04S 068 37.96W 02317 061 14.3 356 77 -1 18 FEB 02 18
- 4 NEWS 56 08.72S 069 14.68W 02320 063 13.6 359 80 +3 18 FEB 02 21
- 5 AART 56 35.24S 069 25.44W 02333 065 15.2 356 93 -11 18 FEB 02 19
- 6 DJCE 56 22.56S 070 55.52W 02377 071 14.7 341 137 -5 18 FEB 02 13
- 7 ATOO 56 32.36S 084 45.92W 02835 079 15.3 331 595 -4 20 FEB 02 7
- 8 TSEB 56 15.04S 092 51.44W 03104 114 08.4 171 864 +34 28 FEB 02 12


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VOLVO OCEAN RACE / Leg 4 : illbruck first to round Cape Horn

VOLVO OCEAN RACE / Leg 4 : No room for error in harsh wastelands

VOLVO OCEAN RACE : The Volvo Ocean Race reaches a global audience

VOLVO OCEAN RACE : Pascal Bidegorry joins Team SEB


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