Volvo Ocean Race: Light winds or not for race finish?

The Emirates Team New Zealand base at the entrance to the Auckland race village, during the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12.

Wednesday morning at 1000hrs, Sail-World ran a further prediction on the finish time for Leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race, following a change in the situation which developed 12 hours earlier.

Using up to four wind and weather feeds in the routing function of www.predictwind.com!Predictwind, there are two models facing the race navigators.

One using the standard weather feed (containing five days data) the race leader Groupama is predicted to have a relatively straight sail down the Northland coast and currently has 1000-1100nm to sail to the finish.

Location of the race leader Groupama, south of New Caledonia, showing her recommended course options to reach North Cape on Leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race

On that basis the finish time of late Saturday night, in the early hours of Sunday morning - making for a great party in the Viaduct harbour - which will be Party Central. The wind does lighten a little towards the end but nothing to the extent of the Predictwind data.

The second set of data, refined by Predictwind, which is usually more accurate, show the breeze collapsing as Groupama travels down the Northland coast, and forecasting a later finish time of between 3-4pm on the Sunday afternoon.

Predictwind shows a collapsing wind system around the Northland coast on Saturday and Sunday for the finish of Leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race

The distances sailed are not too different (as opposed to the radial distance method used by Volvo Ocean Race), showing about 1100nm left to sail.

For New Zealanders, and Aucklanders in particular, the prognosis above is not unusual, in fact it would be unusual if two weather models did agree, and the picture is not expected to become clear until 12 hours from the finish.

Normally boats would hug the Northland coast on the final run into Auckland, and make the most of what comes their way and protect a tactical position. However that would leave them open to being parked in a hole, and passed if a stronger wind option opened up offshore.

Sail-World will monitor the progress of the weather systems and will update later today.