Volvo Ocean Race: "MAPFRE" and the big decision of the leg 7: how to pass the Azores high
Atlantic Ocean, 22nd May 2015
After leaving Newport (USA) on 17th May, "MAPFRE" started the seventh leg of the Volvo Ocean Race in good form at the front of the fleet. With just under a week to go until their arrival in Lisbon (Portugal), the Spanish team are currently sailing on a north-easterly heading and negotiating how to get through the Azores high.
For the first few hours of the leg, it was a low pressure system forming in the Gulf of Maine that had been the Spanish team’s main concern, although it finally didn't affect the fleet. However, sailing proved complicated as the fleet were forced to get around the exclusion zone, which had been established because of maritime traffic, and a wind-less area caused havoc for all the teams.
“Shortly after the start, the scarce shifty wind made it complicated for us all. At times the current was dragging the boat and there was no wind at all”, explained on-board reporter, Francisco Vignale.
The fleet compressed for the first time in the leg and have continued to sail as a tight pack ever since. The offshore Match Race had begun and after five days of sailing, evidence still seems to indicate that everything will be decided on the finish line.
In a very atypical North Atlantic, Iker Martinez emphasised the importance of the southerly winds,
“We will have to fight hard for every mile, since it is quite likely that we don't have many options until the Azores High, and at least as things stand right now, it looks like our position to get into the southerly wind could be vital for our finishing position in the leg”.
"MAPFRE" played their cards right and moved into the lead whilst approaching the ice gate, where team navigator Jean Luc Nélias explained,
“For the next three days it is going to be a speed race until we attempt to cross the Azores High. The race has started all over again”.
Currently 1500 miles from the finish line and sailing in strong southerly winds, dealing with the high pressure area of the Azores anticyclone will be absolutely vital.
And it looks as if the big decision of Leg 7 has been taken. For days the skippers and navigators have been studying the weather models sent by the Race organisation, to decide which route to opt for in facing the huge wall of the Azores High. The northern option seems to have convinced the fleet; meaning more miles, but also greater wind intensity, and therefore faster speeds.
Nevertheless, a forecast is just a forecast. Will it be the right decision?
We will have to wait until Lisbon (Portugal) to find out. The fleet is expected to arrive on Wednesday 27th May.
Until then, in the words of "MAPFRE" navigatorJean Luc Nélias their aim is to,
“have enough speed to stay with all the boats on crossing the area of high pressure”.
Photo : © Francisco Vignale / MAPFRE/Volvo Ocean Race