Volvo Ocean Race: Will the East come through with a dividend?

Seaspray covering the bow onboard Team Telefonica during leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Sanya, China to Auckland, New Zealand. (

East continues to be best in the Volvo Ocean Race, as the fleet tries to get south to the next stop over in Auckland.

As she has done for the past couple of days, Camper continues to lead - using the course routing feature of www.predictwind.com!PredictWind. However Groupama is just seven miles astern.

The main feature is that the boats which are moving east, or are positioned to the east of the direct line to Auckland, are showing as making the biggest gains. Principal of these is Telefonica which has closed up significantly to be just 13nm behind - on the basis of distance to sail to an unofficial waypoint nine days down the track - at the limit of accurate weather data.

Volvo Ocean Race - Leg 4 Day 4 high level view of fleet positions - as Puma heads north east semingly away from Auckland.

The margins between the first two boats (Camper and Groupama) are almost the same as those estimated by the Volvo Ocean Race system which measures distance from the finish point in Auckland.

Back in the van of the fleet, the Volvo system still shows Team Sanya in third overall, while www.predictwind.com!PredictWind has her in fifth place. The reason for this is obvious - while Sanya may be the third closest to Auckland the winds are lighter between her and the finish line, and she is predicted to take a longer time to get to the City of Sails.

Volvo Ocean Race - Leg 4 Day 4 zoom view of fleet positions

Telefonica, despite some tactical snafus earlier in the race appears to have pulled in the miles, by moving hard east towards a stronger wind pattern which will get her in the tradewinds sooner than those to the west of her. Abu Dhabi is on the same distance behind as Telefonica.

Puma despite being shown by the Volvo Ocean race to be almost 200nm behind is only 76nm off the leaders using a route prediction method to calculate the margin and also time behind the leader, Camper. Despite hugging the Chinese coast, Puma scores under this method because she is being seen to move into an area of stronger wind - which will pay a dividend later in the leg.

The wind charts show that the fleet, or rather the leaders, still have a period of 12 hours to negotiate light winds, and adverse winds, before the breeze settles into a steady 12-15kt pattern.

Volvo Ocean Race - Leg 4 Day 4 - Camper’s recommended course options are almost the same for both weather feeds used by the routing system. The end point is where she is expected to be in nine days time.