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illbruck goes east to find wind
With Tyco and ASSA ABLOY pairing off match racing each other, and News Corp and Amer Sports One doing likewise, illbruck made a break to the east - having already dropped to fifth place, co-navigators Juan Vila and Ian Moore must have decided a different strategy was called for.
The decision to split from the other four will not have been taken lightly, but there is a sound reason for doing so. The weather forecasts show slightly stronger wind pressure to the east, and although this will add extra miles it is worth easing over to that side of the course to take benefit of this.
Initially it was an expensive move as the port gybe is less favourable than starboard in terms of VMG towards the next waypoint of Fernando de Noronha. However rather than use the course waypoint to measure their gains and losses against, the navigators will have added what they consider the optimum route to get there, which is seldom a straight line in yacht racing.
The high pressure sitting to the west of the fleet is expected to slowly move away weakening the trade winds to a little over 10 knots, with lighter winds to the west. This will also swing the winds to a north or possibly north-westerly direction which will again benefit the more easterly yachts.
The downside of being east is that if the trade winds do not follow the current predictions but blow with their customary vigour of 15 to 20 knots from the north-east. As the yachts head south the winds will veer to the east and weaken, making it a slow process of getting west. Climatalogical data suggests that the winds are strongest in a band sweeping north of the Cape Verde Islands (400 miles to the south of the fleet).
SEB's gamble through the Canary Islands has paid off, jumping them up to sixth place. Marcel van Triest must be pleased with that call. The weather forecasts suggest that they should be able to continue making gains, although not enough to overtake the next few days should see a constant narrowing of the gap between them and the leaders. SEB has avoided the wind shadow caused by Tenerife; vortices show in the clouds on satellite pictures and extend many miles downwind from the island. The surface wind reflects the swirls and can make for difficult sailing.
While SEB is making the best progress of the whole fleet and has closed down to within 150 miles of Tyco, the Doldrums is yet to come and is likely to decide the fate of SEB in this crucial first leg. "It’s anyone’s guess, what’s going to happen," said Mutter, the Kiwi trimmer/helmsman. "The Doldrums could turn into the world’s biggest parking lot or boats could sail straight through."
Amer Sports Too and djuice must be wondering just where they went wrong. Too far west in light winds, there is little hope for an early release and they are likely to see further loses over the next 24 hours before reaching a consistent stronger breeze.
djuice has stretched away from Amer Sports Too and clawed back some of the lost ground on the leading gang of five.
Meanwhile, back at the front, the gang of five are still engaged in their slow and painstaking dance around the wind-sapping clouds. Yesterday, the crew were enjoying the respite of calm seas and sunny skies to draw breath after the rib-busting conditions of the first days out of Southampton.
The girls on Amer Sports Too have got so much food they’re trying to stop one of their crew flinging excess Powerbars over the side in a bid to save weight, according to Aussie Emma Westmacott. "We’ve had to tie her to her bunk to stop her doing it," she said. The girls took two more days’ food supply than the boys on the other Amer Sports boat, and Grant Dalton is already imposing rations on the Amer Sport One crew.