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22 February 2006, 10:16 am
Ocean Poker
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Volvo Ocean Race 2005-2006

As the fleet begins its approach to the first ice gate, it is looking more and more likely that the gamble taken by ABN AMRO TWO and Brasil 1 to stay to the north of the main bulk of the fleet may well pay off. These two are nearest to the gate, approximately 500 miles to the north of them. Around the gate, the winds are light, but once they have passed above it, they may have the opportunity to reach off at greater speeds.
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Although the rest of the fleet, positioned 100 nautical miles to the south has better breeze, they may have to sail to windward to reach the gate and this will slow them considerably. Mike SANDERSON's (NZL) ABN AMRO ONE is back in the lead, but for how long? The worse case scenario is struggling to get to the gate and, in the end, having to beat in an increasing northerly breeze.

The Winning Hand?

'So who is right and who is wrong?' asks Knut FROSTAD (NOR) from Brasil 1. 'It's just like playing poker. What cards to you guys hold? Or no cards at all and just showing up a brave face, trying to make everyone believe something?'

'It's a bit hairy right now to hear the six hour scheds [position reports] and everyone onboard movistar is holding his breath when the positions come in,' wrote skipper of movistar, Bouwe BEKKING (NED), this morning. 'We are trying to sail around the high and means we are nearly 50 degrees off course. It makes a huge difference if another boat sails a closer course to the waypoint,' he added.

Neal MCDONALD's (GBR) Ericsson Racing Team is the furthest north of the group trying to sail around the high pressure. She is 27 miles north of movistar. Movistar is just three miles north of Paul CAYARD's (USA) Pirates of the Caribbean and CAYARD is 18 miles north of ABN AMRO ONE, a total north south divide of approximately 50 miles in this pack.

View Of The Weather Forecaster

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Crewmen on the Black Pearl
are enjoying their more
southerly position for now

As the fleet ponders weather tactics for the approach to the first Ice Gate, the Volvo Ocean Race's Jennifer LILLY looks at what is happening meteorologically speaking…

'The fleet has spread out in backing north westerly winds associated with a large high to the east of New Zealand. The winds have been in the high teens, with slightly better pressure for the boats to the north. With over 6,000 miles to go, however, positioning and strategy are arguably more important than boat speed at this stage. With less than 50 miles separating the leaders from the back of the fleet, a surprising north south separation hints at the different strategies to come.

'At the moment, a large high is the dominant weather feature, but it is also worth noting a polar low moving east, well south of the fleet, and the remnants of a tropical cyclone to the north of the fleet.

'Over the next two days the polar low will continue to move east. A trough extending north from this low may cause the winds to back to west south westerly for the most southerly boats, but generally this low will only act to build the westerly pressure gradient around the southern periphery of the high.

Planning For The First Ice Gate

'The navigators are planning for the first Ice Gate. The Ice Gates are set up such that each boat must pass north of 48 degrees south at least once between 148 degrees west and 140 degrees west, and then again between 130 degrees west and 125 degrees west. With typical conditions we would expect to see the teams head to the eastern end of the first gate and then stay north just long enough to catch the western end of the second gate, before diving back into the stronger winds to the south.

'In reality, the timing of each team's trip north will be a key element of strategy, and very dependent on the developing weather. Given the current headings across the fleet and the expected conditions, we are likely to see the boats stay south for the next day or two, taking advantage of the strong westerly winds. As they start to head north, the leading teams will be slowed down by the high, which will stretch into a long west to east ridge blocking the course to the 48 degrees south over the next two days.

Closing The Fleet Up

'While the ridge is likely to slow down all the teams, it will have the greatest effect on the leaders, acting to bring the fleet together. Meanwhile, a strong low, which developed out of the remnants of a tropical storm, is moving southeast from its current position at 37 degrees north 160 degrees west. The low is expected to reach its closest point to the ice gate (around 44 degrees south and 150 degrees west) between 0000 UTC and 0600 UTC on 23 February, which is about the same time the boats will be headed north across the ice gate. Strong easterly winds extend southeast from the centre of the low as much as four to six degrees of latitude, meaning the boats may see some strong upwind sailing and rough seas as they head north to the ice gate.

'While the ice gates are intended to keep the boats out of the worst of the ice danger, several potential ice targets have been identified by C-Core, a Canadian remote sensing firm. The identified targets are along the course between 45 degrees south and 50 degrees, and between 165 degrees west and 160 degrees west. This information has been passed on to the boats and they will no doubt remain on the lookout. The small mostly submerged growlers, which are often found in the area of the larger ice burgs, are the real danger. This means the sailors must spend more time over the next few days keeping a careful watch outside the boat for ice, in addition to focusing on the sailing.'

Position Report At 1000 Hours UTC, 22 February 2006
Team Nation Skipper Latitude Longitude DTF DTL DTLC CMG SMG VMG ETA
ABN AMRO ONE NED Mike SANDERSON (NZL) 54 7.02S 155 2.03W 5698 0 14 85 19.4 15.1 10/03/2006
Pirates of the Caribbean USA Paul CAYARD (USA) 53 53.07S 155 24.02W 5698 0 11 87 18.5 15.1 10/03/2006
Brasil 1 BRA Torben GRAEL (BRA) 51 25.01S 157 41.01W 5700 2 -2 72 13.7 15.1 10/03/2006
movistar ESP Bouwe BEKKING (NED) 53 50.01S 155 53.01W 5711 13 14 87 19 15 10/03/2006
Ericsson Racing Team SWE Neal MCDONALD (GBR) 53 25.01S 156 28.00W 5712 14 7 86 16.8 14.9 10/03/2006
ABN AMRO TWO NED Sebastian JOSSE (FRA) 52 8.01S 157 39.02W 5714 16 -2 77 13.9 14.9 10/03/2006

DTF: Distance To Finish
DTL: Distance To Leader
DTLC: Distance To Leader Change; the difference between the distance from the boat to the leader taken at the time of the last six hour poll, and the distance from the boat to the leader at the previous poll
CMG: Course Made Good; the average course steered over the period of the past six hours up to the time of the last poll
SMG: Speed Made Good
VMG: Velocity Made Good; the average velocity of the boat towards the finish over the entire leg
ETA: Estimated Time of Arrival

Overall Leaderboard
(Up to and including Leg Three)

Pos Team Nation Skipper Pts
3 movistar ESP Bouwe BEKKING (NED) 25
5 Pirates of the Caribbean USA Paul CAYARD (USA) 21.5
4 Brasil 1 BRA Torben GRAEL (BRA) 20
6 Ericsson Racing Team SWE Neal MCDONALD (GBR) 16.5
7 ING Real Estate Brunel AUS Grant WHARINGTON (AUS) 11.5

For a complete list of all the news about the Volvo Ocean Race 2005-2006 CLICK HERE.

Lizzie GREEN (As Amended By ISAF). Image, ABN AMRO ONE are back in the lead:© Jon NASH
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