It’s a strange opening to this leg but the racing is tight and, as is so often the case in the Volvo Ocean Race in this one-design fleet, it’s all about consistency and setting the boat up for optimum speed in ever-changing conditions.
The top three – MAPFRE, Team Brunel and Dongfeng – are all in sight of each other and tracking each other’s set-up and sail choices in shifting winds and occasional light rain from cloud formations which are potentially lightwind traps.
The red and white Volvo Ocean 65 sponsored by Dongfeng Motor Corporation was making nearly 16 knots of boatspeed early on her fourth day at sea, reaching in 15 knots of southerly breeze around 430 miles due east of the northern tip of Taiwan.
In the next hours the breeze is forecast to switch into the northwest and strengthen, a new wind which should benefit the two trailing boats – SHK/Scallywag (+113) and Team AkzoNobel (+115) - first.
This was always going to be a complex leg for navigators and skippers trying to pick their way through different weather systems and climate zones and it is no wonder that Dongfeng skipper Charles Caudrelier described it as “dangerous for the rankings” because the picture ahead is full of transitions and uncertainty.
While it’s tough for the strategists on board, it makes for fascinating armchair sailing for those of us watching online. The next focus will be to see whether – as some routing models suggest – Scallywag and Akzo can come right back into the leading group or whether their early move northeast after rounding the southern tip of Taiwan is going to haunt them for a lot longer.
Latest position report at 0700 UTC:
1. MAPFRE. DTF: 4,652.2nm
2. Team Brunel. DTL: 0.4nm
3. Dongfeng Race Team. DTL: 0.7nm
4. Turn the Tide on Plastic. DTL: 3.7nm
5. Team AkzoNobel. DTL: 113.3nm
6. Team Sun Hung Kai / Scallywag. DTL: 115.6
7. Vestas 11th Hour Racing. DNS