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Volvo Ocean Race: Telefónica leads fight for first breeze

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At 1000 UTC this morning, the Volvo Ocean Race fleet was still fighting to make progress through the trough separating two low-pressure systems. Split now across a north/south divide by more than 200 nautical miles, the exhausted crews are under pressure, but there is little they can do. Overall race leader Team Telefónica (Iker Martínez/ESP) have maintained their overnight lead and pulled out 26 nautical miles over second-placed Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.

Everyone is aware that the team that finds the new northerly breeze first will leave the others trailing, however the repetitive fluctuation of the breeze is making progress difficult and the trough is travelling east at roughly the same speed as the fleet.

Ian Walker, skipper of Abu Dhabi’s Azzam explains the situation perfectly: “A cold front extending north/south across the fleet containing rain, little wind and a 180 degree wind shift is moving slowly east at about 12 knots. Sadly this means that we sail into it at 20 knots, the wind dies, we stop until the front moves forward and we regain the wind from the old direction.

“All the time this happens, those boats behind pile into the back of us. Only when the front slows down or if we get some magic gust from a rain cloud or something similar will we be able to pop through to the east side and away.

“The only real question for navigators and skippers is where to position yourself on the north/south axis in the line-up. If you can get through it fast then north should be good, if it takes longer then south could be stronger. We are currently trying to slide south a bit to get in touch with PUMA and CAMPER and minimise any leverage they have over us.”