Saturday, 7 March 2009
It's wet on the Dragon! Image copyright Guo Chan/Green Dragon Racing.
by Lucy Harwood
“It is almost three weeks since the start of leg 5 from Qingdao and Green Dragon and the fleet have just sailed past East Cape, New Zealand. Now a few years back during Whitbread times that would have been the starting point of what was then considered a long ocean leg, Auckland to Punta Del Este then came Wellington to Rio de Janeiro, that I guess puts into perspective how long this leg really is, Qingdao to Rio de Janeiro 12.500 nautical miles, wow!” said Green Dragon Shore Team Manager this morning.
Having already sailed half the distance of this leg the 'onshore' Green Dragon Navigator gives us an insight of what lies ahead.
From Green Dragon navigator Ian Moore who is sitting out this leg:
“So finally after 6,000 miles of generally tactical racing amongst the fleet we have a strategic split of over 400 nautical miles. Ericsson 3 in the north, Telefónica Blue in the south with the other 3 stuck a bit in no man’s land. The big question is who are going to be the winners and losers.
Ericsson 3 is likely to continue north east and try and reach up and over the approaching low pressure system. They are the only boat with this opportunity and it is hard to see how this will not net them a massive gain against the three middle boats. They will however, be risking putting themselves in some fairly unpleasant, if not mildly dangerous, weather. At about the time you are reading this they should be reaching in 30+ knots and if the low moves north they will have to follow it to avoid the strong headwinds on its south side. Once over they can dive south again, reaching and running in the strong NE winds.
The middle pack are not far enough north to go the whole way over the top of the low, which means they will sail a shorter course to the south of the low but be on the wind for most of those miles. This could easily see Puma emerging up to 4-5 hours behind Ericsson 3 on Saturday afternoon. Ericsson 4 and Green Dragon could be even further back.
So what of Telefónica Blue? They are committed to a more southerly route. At the moment they look to be sailing round the south side of a small high which is sitting over the ice waypoint gate. Their problem is how to get north again to sail through the ice gate. They have 2 options. Go on the wind early and try to reach the west end of the gate, or hope that the weather throws them a lifeline and gives them an opportunity to get back north and the east end of the gate.
I normally like a southerly route in this part of the world, but the position of the ice gates is far from normal and it has distorted the course in such a way that normal rules just don’t apply. Some of the routing has Telefónica doing alright and holding even with the boats in the north. My feeling is they will take a bit of a loss to get back to the first ice gate putting them back in 3rd or 4th place by the second ice gate.”
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