For Team Brunel and Dongfeng Race Team – who have disputed the lead for so long - the big danger is that the compression in the fleet, as the boats sail out of the Gulf Stream into a blocking wall of light air, will turn the ranking order inside out.
Right now, midway through their 15th day at sea on the voyage from Itajai in Brazil, Dongfeng is still in second position but she and Brunel are making half the boatspeed of the chasing pack who are still doing 20 knots in 20-30 knots of wind. Dongfeng is also pointing away from the finish line.
The big question is whether the chasers, led by Vestas 11th Hour Racing and MAPFRE, which has now gained a place at the expense of Turn the Tide on Plastic, will sail around the leaders and get to Newport first. Or, conversely will the later boats fall into a trap themselves?
This is stressful for skippers and navigators and a time when crews need to use all their powers of concentration to make the most of whatever conditions they have.
Between now and the finish which is less than 230 nautical miles from Dongfeng’s bow, the breeze is going to move from the west into the north and then the northwest, but there are going to be holes which could leave crews marooned.
“It’s a tricky situation,” said Charles Caudrelier while Dongfeng was still hammering along in the Gulf Stream. “We’re in a good position but we know that the back of the fleet will come back…it’s very, very close and Brunel is doing a fantastic comeback (in this race)…”
It’s hard to take your eyes off the Tracker…can Dongfeng hold onto her second place that Charles and his crew have worked so hard for over the past 15 days?
Position report at 08h59UTC:
1 - Team Brunel 209nm from Newport
2 - Dongfeng Race Team 16.1nm from the leader
3 - Vestas 11th Hour 24.4nm
4 - MAPFRE 25nm
5 - Turn The Tide of Plastic 30.5nm
6 - AkzoNobel 59.6nm
7 - Scallywag 155nm