Thursday, November 20, 2008

Chris Bedford, Ericsson meteorologist: The long road north begins

[Source: Chris Bedford, Ericsson Racing meteorologist] Good news came twice for Ericsson Race Team this morning, with Ericsson 4 across the scoring line first and Ericsson 3 a not too distant second. As a small gift, the timing of the approaching front was a bit faster than forecast, causing winds to veer from SW to W requiring a gybe north BEFORE the wayline. This could have been slightly threatening to the 1st and 2nd placings at 58E if it wasn’t for the damage slowing the trailing boats and if it the shift had occurred a little earlier. Instead, it was nearly perfect and allowed Ericsson 3 and 4 to start their long-awaited climb on a more northerly course toward Cochin.

The weather map shows a cold front to the southwest and west of most of the fleet and a high pressure area to the northwest. As mentioned above, the approaching front has had the affect of easing and veering the winds. Meanwhile, further toward the northwest where Puma are located, the high pressure is more dominant and wind speeds are lower. No doubt Puma is in need of theses calmer conditions to allow them to effect repairs on their internal structures while keeping the pressure off.

Phil Jameson, bowman on Ericsson 4, talks after crossing the scoring gate ahead of he fleet. South Indian Ocean, 20 November 2008. Video copyright Ericsson Racing Team

Wind speeds will likely increase for a time this afternoon through tonight on the Ericsson boats as the cold front brushes close by. Then, during the day tomorrow, some easing is likely, with some of the lightest wind since the first night out of Cape Town possible. The cold front is likely to catch up with them early Saturday, but Ericsson 3 and 4 will be far enough north so that the frontal passage will be relatively quiet.

At the moment, I don’t see any significant differences in the relative positioning between Ericsson 3 and 4. Ericsson 3 is in a slightly better covering position than Ericsson 4, and this may allow the Nordic Crew the opportunity to limit the options open to the International Crew in the short term. At this point, it is really a case of sailing fast with the wind that you have. There are few tactical options available given the wind direction and course toward Cochin. The early options in the leg have been used up and it is now a case of getting north as quickly as possible.

Late on Saturday or early Sunday, the fleet will finally enter the southeasterly trade winds. These winds will be very effective in carrying the boats north quickly on a long-awaited intersection with the doldrums. At the moment, the trades look like they will be relatively strong – 20 to 25 knots and should offer a fast right north. As an added bit of good news, the doldrums look quite benign at the moment and possibilities of a quick crossing are good. We are watching a Tropical Storm located out at 9S/84E, but it is forecast to move east and remain clear of the fleet.

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