Mike SANDERSON's (NZL) ABN AMRO ONE has established a 22 point lead over the fleet but with the expected forecast for light to moderate winds, this lead might disappear as the Dutch boat is disadvantaged in such conditions.
Volvo Ocean Race meteorologist Chris BEDFORD explains the weather forecast, 'The wind will be from the north at five to ten knots on the Inner Harbour increasing to 15 knots over the open Chesapeake. A gradual decrease in wind speed and a right shift is expected from about midday or 1300 local time. The winds will ease to around ten knots from the northeast during the race.'
The wind will not be the only thing that the teams have to contend with as Chesapeake Bay is a renowned obstacle course and the fleet will have to avoid large shoals and lobster pots. The Chesapeake can also throw up some interesting tidal situations.
'As always, tidal currents will be a significant factor on the bay,' explained BEDFORD. 'An ebb tide of water flowing out of the bay toward the south is expected for most of the race. The tidal strength will likely be strongest near the beginning of the race, easing to nearly slack tide toward the end.'
With so much to contend with out on the water and the existing pressure of close racing, it is difficult to predict who will come out on top.
With just one and a half points separating second to fourth place there will be an intense battle between the Spanish entry movistar, Sebastien JOSSE (FRA) and his young team onboard ABN AMRO TWO and the only American entry Pirates of the Caribbean skippered by Paul CAYARD (USA). The Pirates will be hoping that their special guest Miss USA Tara CONNOR, newly crowned one week ago in Baltimore, brings them good fortune.
This will be the first time since the Melbourne, Australia stopover that all seven boats will line up against each other after the Australian entry Brunel rejoined the race in Baltimore.
There are certainly sources within the chasing pack who think SANDERSON and his men could well be in for a serious challenge today, and the wind forecast, roughly ten knots from the north east, does not quite fall into the twelve to 18 knot range where ABN AMRO's turbo charged beam operates, but then, this is the team John KOSTECKI (USA), the Ericsson inshore tactician, refers to as 'unbeatable in any conditions.'
|Chesapeake Bay will host the
VO 70s again today
© David BRANIGAN
'Everyone onboard is a bit nervous, we thought we were going to win in our home, so it rattled our cage and I think we will do well here. Fourth place in Rio wasn't good enough,' WILSON said.
'In these conditions I think Brasil 1 and movistar should be the top two performers. I think if we turn up and work as a team we have a really good chance of winning. In ten knots I think we should be able to hold them [ABN AMRO ONE].'
Movistar skipper Bouwe BEKKING (NED) believes the result will not be a forgone conclusion for ABN AMRO ONE for reasons beyond the conditions. He believes the correct handling of a notoriously tricky stretch of water, featuring unpredictable wind shifts and, at times, a one knot tide, will be more decisive than natural boat speed.
He said, 'I think everyone will have a good race because it's flat water, so I think it will come down to the old tradition of whoever makes the fewest mistakes wins.
'If it's under ten knots we will be OK, if it is more than ten knots then they are fast upwind again, so they might stretch out in the first leg and get control of the race. Crossed fingers it is not going to happen that way.
'These conditions can be very tricky, there are breezes and shifts when you don't even know it. When it is light it is quite tricky, and the pressure is all over the place and with the shifts you don't really have any idea which way it will go. It will be interesting. There might be people taking chances that don't pay off and then in the last couple of legs they take us all.'
SANDERSON, needless to say, was noncommittal on a result, but did maintain, 'If it comes down to boat handling my crew is up to the job.'
Of course there are other factors to the equation. The Pirates, movistar, Ericsson and Brasil 1 have been waiting for various sails to pass through customs this week. They are expected to arrive tonight so panic has been allayed, however, what impact this may have had on preparations remains to be seen when the boats take to the course on Saturday.
Likewise, there is the crustacean threat. With crab pots dotted around the Chesapeake there is no telling when the hunted will become the hunter and one of the pots will snag a keel bulb. Rumour also tells of a giant blue crab in the area that has been known to take boats, complete with crews, to its lair in the bottom of the bay. Best to avoid its huge pincers that can grab and hold even a Volvo Open 70...
All things considered, renowned sailing pundit Rob MUNDLE believes this could be the closest race yet. He still thinks the lighter air craving Farr boats will hold the edge, but as he says, 'you just don't write off ABN AMRO.'
Racing gets underway at 1300 local time, 1700 UTC. For full crew lists and the predicted weather CLICK HERE.
(Up to and including Leg Five)
|1||ABN AMRO ONE||NED||Mike SANDERSON (NZL)||62.5|
|2||movistar||ESP||Bouwe BEKKING (NED)||40.5|
|3||ABN AMRO TWO||NED||Sebastien JOSSE (FRA)||39.5|
|4||Pirates of the Caribbean||USA||Paul CAYARD (USA)||39|
|5||Brasil 1||BRA||Torben GRAEL (BRA)||34|
|6||Ericsson Racing Team||SWE||Neal MCDONALD (GBR)||28.5|
|7||Brunel||AUS||Grant WHARINGTON (AUS)||11.5|
For a complete list of all the news about the Volvo Ocean Race 2005-2006 CLICK HERE.