Volvo Ocean Race - Differing opinions

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing during leg 2 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Cape Town, South Africa to Abu Dhabi, UAE.
In the Volvo Ocean Race, Groupama 4 led the fleet into the Stealth Zone and in the direction of the Doldrums. Meanwhile, a clear difference in opinion is surfacing amongst the fleet as to which end of the windless area will prove to be the most favourable strip to cross.

As Groupama 4 entered stealth mode, the team was tending to the west, with second-placed Puma’s Mar Mostro (Ken Read/USA) now also in stealth and heading east, crossing Groupama’s tracks.

Telefónica (Iker Martínez/ESP), the third boat to enter stealth, and Camper (Chris Nicholson/AUS) are clearly intent on shooting through to the east, while Ian Walker and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing are still formulating their plans, 187.5 nautical miles behind the leading boat.

'We really could do with 12 hours of sailing in more wind, which should happen and we should compress into the Doldrums,' explains skipper Ian Walker. 'If we can close the lead down to 40 or 50 miles, then we are within shooting distance'.

According to Walker, the Doldrums are reasonably narrow and have quite a lot of wind in them and it is by no means certain that the fleet will stop at all and it is less likely that Walker’s team can improve on their fifth-place position.

Speaking of his strategy, Walker said, 'We will just follow those guys in. We will compress into the back of them, maybe setup slightly to the west so that we have a faster angle in, and then once we see what happens to them, we can reassess. We will have roughly three hours to assess and move our east west position'.

The first three boats have already started to slow to ten knots or so, almost half that Ian Walker’s crew who hopes to reel them back in, but Walker says it’s not just about the fleet compressing. He has to get Azzam level or even past another boat to be in with a chance of a podium finish, otherwise it is likely that Groupama 4 will just extend away on the other side of the Doldrums in the fresh westerly breeze which is waiting for them.

Volvo Ocean Race website