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15 May 2006, 09:51 am
The Strategy Debate
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Volvo Ocean Race 2005-2006
New York, USA

The seven strong Volvo Ocean Race fleet is now split in its decision as to how to cross the Atlantic the quickest. Set up to the south is ABN AMRO ONE with the rest of the fleet spread out to the north of them, in a distance spanning 24 miles. Brasil 1 is the most northerly of this group, while movistar has split from the fleet and is pressing hard north alone.
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'We haven't managed to escape the high pressure system. We have done everything to get as far as possible east, but the high has swallowed us up. The boats in the south and further east have more pressure and a better wind angle than us, and there is nothing we can do about that,' movistar skipper Bouwe BEKKING (NED) explains.

Volvo Ocean Race meteorologist, Jennifer LILLY, says that the boats to the north are likely hoping to sail the shortest distance possible, while the boats to the south are hoping to hold on to the strongest breeze. With light winds expected, and continued upwind conditions, the strategy debate between the northerly route and a more easterly course is as lively as ever.

'Looking ahead, lighter winds are expected for the next 24 hours, before the fleet gets into stronger north westerly winds, and downwind sailing conditions, associated with a slow moving low in the mid Atlantic. While all the teams are looking forward to the downwind sailing, the light air between may play a big role in the outcome of this leg,' explains LILLY.

In the last six hours, the fleet has reshuffled again and ABN AMRO ONE is back in the lead with Neal MCDONALD's (GBR) Ericsson gaining on her in the last six hours and moving up to second place, while the rest of the fleet have all lost miles.

Whale Of A Time

Things often happen in threes, and skipper Mike SANDERSON (NZL) and his team onboard ABN AMRO ONE experienced exactly that phenomena out in the Atlantic yesterday, which they are not keen to repeat in a hurry.

'There are three things out here that we fear the most,' said SANDERSON in a radio interview yesterday. 'One is having a tactical decision not pan out and we found ourselves in the north with a weather system changing, so we decided that we had to get out of there, and we rocketed from one end of the leaderboard to the other.

'As we were doing that, the adventures continued and suddenly we realised we were losing keel pressure and we got the awful, sinking feeling that you get on a canting keel boat as we found out we had lost all the oil out of keel system and we were losing cant. We battled with that and we are back up and running now.

'These things happen in threes, and about four hours ago we had the misfortune of hitting a whale. It stopped the boat dead and sheered off one of our dagger boards and has done some damage around the case. We have carried a spare dagger board for the whole race and it looks like it might have paid off. We have managed to stop and put the spare board in and we are back up to speed. The big question for us is: what is the extent of the damage in the case. We can see some cracking on the inside but we are not seeing any movement and it all seems fine at the moment. We're just playing it semi softly at the moment and not pushing the boat to 100 per cent until we get some comfort back that the structural integrity is there.'

As for the whale? The crew are sure it was a whale that they collided with as they saw its tail slide down the side of the boat. It was dark and there was no way that the whale could see the boat coming or the crew to see the whale in the path of Black Betty. SANDERSON says that it appeared to swim away after the accident so hopefully, a few aspirin later, it will be fine!

The Beat Goes On

Adventures at sea aside, the fleet has continued its relentless beat up the north east coast and it has been very cold, foggy and generally miserable. Positions have reshuffled as the fleet tack back and forth and set up for a lane to take them around a high pressure system that is building over Newfoundland.

Paul CAYARD (USA), skipper of Pirates of the Caribbean, says the choice of which lane to take is not easy. 'The closer you go to the high [inside lane], the shorter course you sail but you have less wind. The further away from the centre [outside lane], the longer the course, but you sail with more wind.'

Brasil 1 is set up more to the inside (north in this case), while ABN AMRO ONE and Ericsson are set up on the outside (south), with the rest of the fleet sandwiched in the middle. 'For us it is so far so good,' says Simon FISHER (GBR) from ABN AMRO TWO. 'We are positioned close to our competitors on the side we want. Hopefully, as the breeze starts to free off over the next 24 hours, we can start to reap the rewards of the last few day's efforts,' he said.

Movistar is the furthest to the inside, and is, perhaps, about to play a very dangerous game. It may be possible for Bouwe BEKKING (NED) and his team to punch through the high pressure, lose miles but then gain them back later with a strong northerly position. 'A dangerous game, taking on a high and low percentage option I would have thought,' says Brunel's navigator, Will OXLEY (AUS). 'But, with the potential to smoke us all if it works,' he adds.

Position Report At 1000 Hours UTC, 15 May 2006

Team Nation Skipper Latitude Longitude DTF DTL DTLC CMG SMG VMG ETA
ABN AMRO ONE NED Mike SANDERSON (NZL) 41 35.02N 54 43.02W 2255 0 21 107 11.6 8.9 No Data
Ericsson Racing Team SWE Neal MCDONALD (GBR) 41 51.01N 55 12.30W 2265 10 1 110 10.2 8.8 No Data
Brasil 1 BRA Torben GRAEL (BRA) 42 6.01N 55 30.30W 2269 14 -14 115 11.7 8.7 No Data
Pirates of the Caribbean USA Paul CAYARD (USA) 42 8.00N 55 42.02W 2277 22 -18 116 11.7 8.7 No Data
ABN AMRO TWO NED Sebastian JOSSE (FRA) 42 9.30N 55 54.03W 2283 28 -19 114 11.1 8.6 No Data
Brunel AUS Matthew HUMPHRIES (GBR) 41 58.02N 56 4.09W 2295 40 -18 112 9.7 8.5 No Data
movistar ESP Bouwe BEKKING (NED) 43 14.01N 58 4.01W 2333 78 -44 93 7.8 8 No Data

Overall Leaderboard
(Up to and including Leg Six)

Pos Team Nation Skipper Pts
2 Pirates of the Caribbean USA Paul CAYARD (USA) 47.5
3 movistar ESP Bouwe BEKKING (NED) 47
4= ABN AMRO TWO NED Sebastien JOSSE (FRA) 42
4= Brasil 1 BRA Torben GRAEL (BRA) 42
6 Ericsson Racing Team SWE Neal MCDONALD (GBR) 34.5
7 Brunel AUS Matthew HUMPHRIES (GBR) 2.5

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

Lizzie GREEN (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Richard MASON trims the jib with a view of a fiery sky and Great Britain ahead:© Magnus WOXÉN
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