Friday, 6 February 2009
Qingdao - China: Telefonica Blue head out for training, prior to the start of the in-port race. Image copyright Rick Tomlinson/Volvo Ocean Race.
by Riath Al-Samarrai
With the memories of an upwind pounding in gale force winds and rough seas still fresh in the mind, a challenge of a very different kind is now on the agenda for this weekend's in-port race.
For while gusts of 55 knots and more occasionally rocked the boats in leg four, Saturday's race around the buoys will barely reach a tenth of that, according to Chris Bedford.
Telefonica Blue motoring out of Qingdao for a practice sail. Image copyright Rick Tomlinson/Volvo Ocean Race.
The Ericsson Racing Team meteorologist is currently forecasting a breeze between two and six knots, with the direction fluctuating between the south-west and south-east.
"Right now it looks very, very light," he said. "We seem to have high pressure sitting right over us which is not a good thing as it shuts down the gradient wind. That leaves us with just thermal breezes and it is the middle of winter here. It's not impossible to get a sea breeze and, in fact, we could a bit of one on Saturday but I think it will be light."
He added: "In the morning we are likely to get an offshore wind and that could actually be 10 knots for a little while, but by midday or 1pm (when the first of the day's two races is scheduled to start) that should start dying down and swinging around to some kind of southerly direction. I put in my forecast today that we would be measuring wind-speed in tenths of knots.
"I can see it being anywhere from two to six knots. The best scenario is if the morning land breeze is stronger because it is cold and has a lot of momentum and might continue to carry out to the first race. If that doesn't hold they won't be left with a lot."
A lack of breeze will not be the only challenge facing the four boats that line up for the third inshore session of the event.
"The other problem is we have the tidal current here which can be significant: it could be up to a knot in the first race," Bedford added. "For the second race it will be turning so it might not be so bad. A knot of current with two knots of breeze is not a pretty picture."
Telefonica Blue heads out of Qingdao, as seen from the harbour front. Image copyright Rick Tomlinson/Volvo Ocean Race.
There is some good news in the forecast however. The temperature should be the mildest the city has seen since the boats arrived in Qingdao, with afternoon highs forecast to break 10-degrees under mostly sunny skies.
Volvo Ocean Race