There is a definite split in the fleet this morning, with Liverpool and Cardiff hugging the African coast, and everyone else going further off to the west. This has resulted in short term losses for the inshore duo, but Conor FOGERTY (skipper of Cardiff Clipper) and Tim MAGEE (skipper of Liverpool Clipper) obviously think that short term pain will result in long term gain.
The chart has wind barbs overlaid which show the forecast wind for 0600 GMT tomorrow morning. These barbs show wind strength by the size and number of flecks they have, so one small fleck equals 5 knots of breeze, one large fleck equals 10 knots of breeze, one large and one small fleck mean 15 knots of breeze, two large flecks means 20 knots and so on. The forecast shows a band of 15-20 knots directly where Cardiff
will be then, and it also shows less wind offshore. Whether this difference in strength will be enough to regain the advantage remains to be seen, but either way it will make for close yacht racing.
With the offshore group, Durban Clipper
(skippered by Craig MILLAR) has made a definite westward jump, and this looks to have put her in an area of lighter winds, closer to the centre of the North Atlantic High pressure system. The centre of the offshore group is lead by Western Australia
(skippered by David PRYCE), who have made consistent progress and have seen this rewarded by going into first place. They have also gone off slightly to the west, presumably to keep the wind more off the starboard quarter as opposed to coming from directly astern, which gives a faster point of sail.
is making good progress with her fight to regain the time she lost with her steering problem, and has made excellent runs, including her first 120 mile schedule - this brings up the magical 10 knot average, and is a good sign of a boat being sailed well and raced hard.
The ITCZ (Inter Tropical Convergence Zone) is quite unstable right now. The four day forecast shows a tropical depression rotating counter-clockwise just south and to the west of the Cape Verde Islands. This will not be a hazard to the yachts, as the winds should not get much above a Force 6, but what it will do is make the local weather patterns very unpredictable, and very varied across the spread of the fleet. This will be where the speed and effort of the crews in changing sails rapidly to suit changing winds will be the major factor in how quickly they pass through this uncertain area if winds into the south-easterly trade winds, which now seem to be down at about 3 degrees north of the Equator. In many ways, Doldrum sailing is more energy-sapping than a gale in the Irish Sea.