Saturday, 19 March 2011
Just over a week until start of Atlantic sprint to Charleston, USA
Derek Hatfield's Active House. Image copyright Ainhoa Sanchez/onEdition.
by Sarah Hames
As the countdown to the start of ocean sprint four continues, we take a look at what lies in store for the VELUX 5 OCEANS skippers...
Tactics is the name of the game for ocean sprint four of the VELUX 5 OCEANS, a 5,700-mile slog north from Punta del Este in Uruguay to Charleston on the east coast of the United States of America. Almost as soon as the VELUX 5 OCEANS fleet leave Punta del Este on March 27 the skippers will face their first challenge of ocean sprint four – the St Helena High.
A huge, continually morphing area of high pressure, the St Helena High is a very difficult beast to get past. It drifts across the South Atlantic with very little rhyme or reason to its direction or strength. Skippers who play the weather systems cleverly will benefit from an early lead as the fleet races north. Those who don’t could find themselves battling to catch up even in the beginning stages of the leg.
Once out of the way of the St Helena High they will start to pick up the south-easterly tradewinds which will provide perfect sailing conditions – for a while. Before too long the fleet will have to tackle the intertropical convergence zone, better known as the Doldrums. Lying a few hundred miles either side of the Equator but always moving, the Doldrums are characterised by frustrating calms and unpredictable squalls.
Once across the Equator the fleet will then pick up the north easterly tradewinds allowing the skippers to take a relatively direct course towards Charleston. The closer to land the fleet sail, the more they will be affected by local currents that sweep up the east coast.
Unlike the last two ocean sprints which have been full-on downwind racing in big seas, the majority of ocean sprint four will be upwind sailing through flatter waters. With tactical decisions making the difference between positions the skippers must constantly look ahead and plan for the ever-changing weather patterns. The challenge is a different one but no less tough. The first yacht is expected to complete this gruelling ocean sprint in around 26 days.
ASK THE VELUX 5 OCEANS SKIPPERS A QUESTION – LIVE
Don’t miss the chance to ask your favourite VELUX 5 OCEANS skippers questions in our series of live webchats.
Timetable for webchats:
Zbigniew ‘Gutek’ Gutkowski (POL): Tuesday March 22, 1800 UTC
Chris Stanmore-Major (GBR): Tuesday March 22, 1830 UTC
Brad Van Liew (USA): Wednesday March 23, 2300 UTC
Derek Hatfield (CAN): Wednesday March 23, 2330 UTC
Webchats for Brad Van Liew, Derek Hatfield and Chris Stanmore-Major will be in English. Gutek’s webchat will take place in Polish for the first 20 minutes then in English for the last ten minutes.
The 30-minute webchats will be hosted on the Eco 60 class website www.eco60.net