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Volvo Ocean Race: Tack fest at the top as lead changes again

26/05/2012
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In a sea state that is horrible and air that is cold, the six-boat Volvo fleet is enduring something of a tack fest as they battle to keep with the Gulf Stream, thrashing their way around the fringe of the pesky high pressure centre. At 0700 GMT today, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR) deposed CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson/AUS) once again to take the lead, and Team Telefónica (Iker Martínez/ESP) re-joined the party.

Approximately halfway between Newport, Rhode Island in the United States and the Atlantic islands of the Azores, the fleet is experiencing 60 degree wind shifts with massive changes in velocity. All on board are fed up with sailing upwind and for them the wider angle of the fresher westerly breeze can’t come quick enough.

Overnight CAMPER had an unexpected encounter with a turtle, which became entangled in their foils, causing the boat to slow from 13 knots to nine knots fairly abruptly. The boat was backed down and the turtle quickly freed and although the incident was unrelated, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing is now 10.7 nautical miles ahead.

“The racing is extremely tight right now, and perhaps the most heated all race for us yet, what a cracker,” exclaimed Abu Dhabi’s bowman Wade Morgan.

As the fleet continues to short tack and slam upwind, Team Telefónica has ended their lonely sojourn in the south and is now positioned midway between CAMPER, the most southerly of the fleet and Groupama who are following in the wake of Abu Dhabi. Although 37.5 nm behind and having to think carefully about the moves from Groupama away to their north but only 2.3 nm astern, Telefónica’s position in closer proximity to the fleet is certainly a safer option.

Although it is unusual to spend so much time on the wind in the Atlantic, the fleet has no option other than to go north to skirt the high pressure and wait for the westerly wind to set them free. The team to reach the new breeze first will have a big advantage, which could be carried almost to the finish in Lisbon later next week.

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