Volvo Ocean Race: Lead changes as fleet make big move north

Thomas Coville, Charles Caudrelier and Damien Foxall changing sails onboad Groupama Sailing Team, skippered by Franck Cammas from France during leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Sanya, China to Auckland, New Zealand.

A move to the north of the direct line for the first waypoint at the Philipines, by the whole Volvo Ocean Race fleet, has seen Groupama (Franck Cammas) take a narrow lead from Telefonica (Iker Martinez).

The move is a result of recommendations from the on board weather routing systems, as the fleet try to find the fastest way through a period of light winds that will prevail for the next 12 hours or so.

From their current position at 1800hrs GMT on 20 February 2012, to the waypoint the recommended course is near to a straight line, so the time taken and distance to sail produced by www/predictwind.com!Predictwind.com is close to what is being predicted by the official race tracker from www.volvooceanrace.com. Volvo Ocean Race use an instant distance to the finish basis - which assumes that the boat which is closest to the finish is in the lead. But that is not a finish line prediction.

The Volvo Fleet makes a big move north according to the positions at 1800 GMT on 20 February 2012

That is not always the case, as the boat which takes the shortest time to reach a waypoint or finish line - actually wins. And simply a boat can sail a longer distance in stronger winds and beat a boat who sails a shorter distance at a slower speed.

The routing systems work on a time to finish basis, and this is what is driving the move, and quit a radical course change as the fleet moved from a position and course well to the south of the direct line to one which is north.

The spread of the Volvo Fleet as it makes a big move north according to the positions at 1800 GMT on 20 February 2012

Groupama only enjoys a lead of a 30 minutes over Telefonica, with Camper (Chris Nicholson) in third about 80 minutes behind with Abu Dhabi (Ian Walker) only three minutes astern of her.

Puma (Ken Read) is only a few minutes back from these two boats, and Sanya is 3.5hrs behind the race leader.

These positions are expected to change as the fleet passes through the period of light winds, given the spread of positions on the water, meaning that the boats will probably have different winds and will be sailing at different speeds as they head towards the Philipines.

Although a period of strong winds appears just to north of the fleet, these are expected to bypass the six competitors on the current preditions.

Groupama will have a near direct course to the waypoint at the Philippines according to the positions at 1800 GMT on 20 February 2012