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23 February 2006, 04:24 pm
Waiting Game
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Volvo Ocean Race 2005-2006

The teams in leg four of the Volvo Ocean Race are playing the waiting game today as they negotiate their way through the complicated weather system that lies between them and the ice gate to the north. Frustration has definitely set in and the positive attitudes of yesterday's reports have turned into sarcasm with a tinge of despair. At the front movistar still leads, eleven miles ahead of ABN AMRO ONE.
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In previous races the second Southern Ocean instalment was historically a fast action packed few weeks. In recent years, icebergs have been sighted much further north and the ice gates are a precaution to help the fleet avoid unnecessary danger. But they have had the unfortunate side effect of forcing the fleet into the fickle breeze caused by three important weather features; a high pressure ridge, an extra tropical cyclone and a polar low. The ridge is sat over the eastern end of the first ice gate, meanwhile the extra-tropical cyclone will merge with the polar low coming from the south west causing more light and fickle breeze. Not good news for the fleet.

Split In Two

The fleet very clearly made two decisions. Sebastien JOSSE's (FRA) ABN AMRO TWO and Torben GRAEL's (BRA) Brasil 1 opted to sail north around the top of the ridge, while the rest of the fleet headed south to race around the bottom of it. Currently the most southerly yachts have more breeze but the outlook for them is not very positive. Bouwe BEKKING's (NED) movistar, the present leader, tacked north at 0940 hours UTC passing in front of Neal MCDONALD's (GBR) Ericsson Racing Team, but tacked back east at 1240 UTC. At practically the same time Mike SANDERSON's (NZL) ABN AMRO ONE decided to tack north. SANDERSON's team crossed Paul CAYARD's (USA) Pirates of the Caribbean track at 1455 UTC making the black and red boat the current furthest south, 232 nautical miles from the ice gate travelling east at twelve knots.

The southerly pack will have a balancing act to play to get to the ice gate, sailing up a narrow band of north easterly breeze. They have to be careful not to fall either side of this as they could get caught in the light winds which would allow Brasil 1 and ABN AMRO TWO to run away with the potential winds to the north of them.

Which Decision Will Pay Off?

The decreasing temperatures have done nothing to cheer up the crew but SANDERSON and his crew on ABN AMRO ONE are thanking their lucky stars today for fleece. SANDERSON insisted on giving his crew fleecy pillowcases and sleeping bags, which he prototyped in his solo sailing experiences. The crew were initially unconvinced but have eaten their words now the fleece has come into its own in the freezing Southern Ocean conditions. SANDERSON jokes, 'The 1997-1998 race was famous for re-lighting the Code 0 sail; I think the fleecy pillow could be seen as one of the great breakthroughs of 2005-2006 Volvo Ocean Race.'

Brasil 1 is currently 280 nautical miles from the ice gate but only has three knots of breeze and making only five knots of boat speed. 80 nautical miles to the south east are the young guns on ABN AMRO TWO with the same conditions. Jennifer LILY, assistant race Meteorologist, has been keenly studying the weather patterns and predicts these two yachts are the most likely to make the long term gains, reaching the new south westerly breeze first but there is still a potential for them to be swallowed up in the low as the others race away.

Brazilian Complaints

The Brazilians have been complaining about the cold for the past few days but as João SIGNORINI (BRA) pointed out today everyone was feeling the drop in temperature. 'Yesterday night we entered a light wind zone and sailing became really quiet. Inside the boat, temperature and silence are a gift for the off-duty crewmembers, who can sleep without the usual hard conditions. We know that this won't last long and everyone is making the best of these quiet times. Crewmembers on deck are already suffering with the cold weather and even some 'gringos' [who are not Brazilian] are starting to complain about it.

'We're now sailing towards the ice way point that we have to cross on the way to Cape Horn. In the next 24 hours low pressure system will bring stronger winds and life aboard will change dramatically. The deck will be all wet again and really, really cold. Water temperature is already at a freezing eight degrees.'

Will Brasil 1 get a jump on the whole fleet on their homecoming leg, as this previously dubious looking tactic of heading north pays off? The outcome will be known in the next 36 hours.

Position Report At 1600 Hours UTC, 23 February 2006

Team Nation Skipper Latitude Longitude DTF DTL DTLC CMG SMG VMG ETA
movistar ESP Bouwe BEKKING (NED) 51 32.01S 147 10.02W 5407 0 0 46 7.4 13.6 10/03/2006
ABN AMRO ONE NED Mike SANDERSON (NZL) 51 50.04S 146 26.02W 5418 11 -3 37 6.9 13.5 10/03/2006
Pirates of the Caribbean USA Paul CAYARD (USA) 51 56.01S 145 51.01W 5422 15 -14 77 10.9 13.5 10/03/2006
Ericsson Racing Team SWE Neal MCDONALD (GBR) 51 50.04S 147 42.02W 5430 23 1 74 10.1 13.4 10/03/2006
ABN AMRO TWO NED Sebastian JOSSE (FRA) 50 12.01S 154 1.03W 5544 137 -24 74 2.7 12.4 11/03/2006
Brasil 1 BRA Torben GRAEL (BRA) 48 44.20S 155 7.04W 5570 163 -26 20 5.6 12.2 11/03/2006

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, Brasil 1 look like gaining from their more northerly position:© Pepe RIBES
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