Volvo Ocean Race: A Naviguesser's nightmare as fleet creep to Miami

A relieved looking Will Oxley and Rob Salthouse look back at Anguilla Island after passing a narrow gap, from onboard Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand during leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Itajai, Brazil, to Miami, USA.
Hamish Hooper/Camper ETNZ/Volvo Ocean Race©

When the the results of the sixth leg of the Volvo Ocean Race are analysed there will no doubt be experts by the container full as to where the boats should have headed and when.

But right now it is a mess, as wind systems collapse and projected routes change dramatically - with the assumption that a boat can just 'port' itself to wherever she needs to be to take the vital leg points.

Current positions as at 0000hrs 06 May 2012, Volvo Ocean Race
Around 40 hours ago, the fleet was being recommended to take a course well to the north of the direct line for Miami, but now that has moved hard south.

For the three boats in the leading group, the situation has become even more tense as the two trailing boats, Abu Dhabi and Groupama attempt to cut the corner, and sail to the most favoured area of the course.

Although Volvo Ocean race's means of calculation shows the race being very tight between Camper and Telefonica, on the basis of time to reach the next waypoint, Camper holds a lead of over two hours over the overall race leader. Puma is about one hour ahead of Camper, according to projections from the routing function of PredictWind.com and Groupama has looks set to close up on Telefonica - being just two hours in arrears at midnight GMT.

The lateral spread between Telefonica and Groupama is the key factor in the small time difference compared to the 65nm gap being reported by the VOR instant position system, which does not take into account conditions ahead of the boats.

Computer routing as at 0000hrs 06 May 2012, Volvo Ocean Race
Groupama and Abu Dhabi are both poised to sail less distance to reach the next waypoint off Eleuthera Island Light, saving vital time on the three boats ahead who had all worked to the north, which traditionally pays the biggest dividen on this leg of the course.

Earlier, Volvo Ocean race reported: Puma continue to lead the race in light airs more than 800 nautical miles from Miami on what should have been the eve of the Leg 6 finish while the threat of 'famine' is becoming a reality on board Abu Dhabi.

Long standing leg leaders Puma Ocean Racing powered by Berg held firm at the front of the five-boat fleet with Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand and Team Telefónica tussling in second and third place respectively.

Camper bowman Daryl Wislang said the light winds had been very frustrating and were building tension ahead of the anticipated finish on May 9.

'By the sounds of it it’s going to be pretty light, and potentially another four days of sailing,’’ he said. 'Anything could happen, that’s pretty slow going on one of these boats.'

Computer routing as at 0900hrs 04 May 2012, Volvo Ocean Race
What appeared to be a comeback by Groupama sailing team in fourth and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing in fifth has since fizzled out with the pair losing more than 40 nautical miles on the leaders in the past six hours to trail by more than 100 nm.

No one has more incentive to sail faster than the crew on board Abu Dhabi, who will run out of food tomorrow.

In a bid to save weight on the boat, the team packed conservatively, taking enough supplies to last just two weeks. They now have little left but energy bars, watch leader Rob Greenhalgh said.

'The soon-to-come famine is going to effect people in different ways,’’ he said. 'On the upside there are quite a few bars in there, no one’s going to go hungry. We’ll all get to Miami in one piece and all get a good feed there.'

At 1900 UTC Puma held a 27.4 nm lead over Camper, Telefónica trailed by 27.8 nm, while Groupama were 106.9 nm behind and Abu Dhabi were in fifth place 129.7 nm in the wake.