TeamVodafoneSailing hits the elevator in the Auckland - Fiji Race

TeamVodafoneSailing has been chasing the elusive fresh breeze necessary to make her fly
Ivor Wilkins

The ORMA60 TeamVodafoneSailing has hit the elevator at last in the Auckland-MusketCove, Fiji Race, sponsored by the NZ Int Yachting Trust.

After languishing in light winds, or no wind, and stuck on a course to the east of the rhumbline, TVS, skippered by Simon Hull has picked up the breeze and at the 2100hrs sked received by the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron was recorded as sailing at an average speed of 14kts.

According to her speed readout displayed in realtime by http://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/display/TeamVodafone!clicking_here she has dropped back to 10kts, which is more in line with the predictions for the next few hours.

The leading boat positions as of 2100hrs on 7 June 2011 - Auckland Musket Cove. Camper is the pink yacht on the rhumbline, Wired is the green one astern, and TVS is the purple yacht to the east (right).

The 60ft trimaran has turned back towards the rhumline to re-establish contact with two monohulls who are ahead of her - Camper, sailed by Emirates Team New Zealand and the Wired (Rob Bassett).

Camper, on a trail sail ahead of the 2011/12 Volvo Ocean race has hit a light spot and was recorded on the RNZYS site by Yellowbrick tracking as sailing at just 5.8kts. Even so she was still just over 100nm ahead of TeamVodafoneSailing. Later her speed picked up to close to 10kts.

60nm astern is Wired (Rob Bassett) the Bakewell-White 52 which is still 40nnm ahead of TVS. Wired is also hugging the rhumbline and was effectively becalmed doing just 1.8kts, at one stage before increasing speed directly towards Fiji.

The expanded track for TeamVodafoneSailing showing the big increase in distance sailed in the last few hours as she has got into a better breeze

The key question in the race now will be whether TVS can hold the breeze into the SE Trades which will give the boats a fast ride into Musket Cove. The race for line honours is extremely tight, particularly with the variation in wind and boat speeds being experienced. Predictions are now that that there are less than two hours between the routed finish times between TeamVodafoneSailing and Camper, with TVS holding the narrow advantage - however she cannot afford too many more periods of light airs. Otherwise she will run out of runway to catch the Volvo 70.

PredictWind's route for TVS shows her sailing at average speed of between 23-27 knots for the final 24 hours of the race. It will be a fast we sleighride for the red trimaran, which as Geant sailed by Michael Desjoueaux won two trans-Atlantic Races.

Camper, by contrast, is predicted to average 13-18kts for the same period heading directly to the finish. However the tracks to achieve these speeds for the Volvo 70 and the ORMA60 are quite different with Camper sailing a direct route, and TVS being routed in a series of downwind tacks.

Predictwind’s route options for TeamVodafoneSailing as of 2100hrs on 7 June 2011 - Auckland Musket Cove. The faint lines are the route options for Camper

Jon Bilger, developer of the PredictWind routing and wind forecasting software used by several boats in the race explains the rationale behind the quite extreme course choices made by TeamVodafoneSailing in the early half of the race. 'We saw very good gains by going East at the start of the race,' says Bilger.

'Initially the two PredictWind forecasts and the CMC forecast had the high moving slowly off to the east.'

At this point, they knew it was a risky strategy but hoped that TeamVodafoneSailing could catch the edge of the high – but the high moved off slightly quicker than expected.

'TeamVodafoneSailing has outstanding speed when reaching in light to moderate wind, whilst Camper is very quick upwind in light winds. We discussed it was a risk to leave the rest of the fleet, but as TeamVodafoneSailing has such different performance characteristics it would be worth the risk to sail their own race,' says Bilger.

Predictwind’s route options for Camper as of 2100hrs on 7 June 2011 - Auckland Musket Cove, Fiji Race. The recommended routes for TVS are shown as faint lines.

Progress can be viewed on the Vodafone Play website http://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/display/TeamVodafone?fullscreen!click_here to go straight to the full screen version. If you are using on an iPhone, please tilt the device horizontally to get the ideal view of both screens. You can wind back the display to follow her progress on the map and accompanying time-lapse pictures as she starts, and then exits the Hauraki Gulf. Now TVS has left 3G coverage only her boat position and actual speed is shown on the display.

Or, you can follow the whole fleet on the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron website www.rnzys.org.nz or http://live.adventuretracking.com/aucklandtofiji2011!click_here to go straight to the Yellowbrick tracker and zoom in to see the individual race yacht's positions updated every 20 minutes.