Monday, November 24, 2008

Chris Bedford, Ericsson meteorologist: Looming doldrums; next two days critical

[Source: Chris Bedford, Ericsson Team Meteorologist] The racing remains close but the Ericsson Racing Team seems to be holding their own today and making small gains on the rest of the fleet. Ericsson 4 made some gains overnight by taking on a more aggressive and slightly deeper reaching angle, pulling back even or slightly ahead of Ericsson 3. This change could also be – in part – due to a more backed wind for a time on Ericsson 4, but by now the two boats are close enough so that they should be in about the same wind direction and speed.

Meanwhile, the closest rivals Puma and Telefonica Blue are sailing slower in slightly less breeze and bruised from their rough trip so far.

As highlighted yesterday, the weather for today appears to favor fast reaching conditions with wind speeds averaging around 20 knots from the E through this afternoon. Things will start to change later this afternoon and especially overnight as the strongest trades are left behind to the south and the winds start to decrease foreshadowing the lighter winds expected with the approaching doldrums.

There have not been any significant changes to note in the Doldrums. A crossing east of Diego Garcia is expected. In fact, hedging course even slightly more to the east now appears to be favored and we might see that trend in the coming position updates. The shift from the E/SE trade winds to the westerly component winds that blow across the equator is expected to take place over a period of about 24 hours from Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday evening as the boats cross from about latitude 5S to latitude 3S. Expect to hear complaints of very light winds from the boats by tomorrow morning.

The fleet will start to compress a bit overnight, and we may awake tomorrow with a much closer, but slower race in progress. The lead of Ericsson 4 and Ericsson 3 over the competition is not big. The next two days will be critical.

Once through the doldrums by late Wednesday or early Thursday morning, moderate WSW winds will continue to offer fine reaching conditions until late Friday. But, from late Friday through the finish on Saturday the winds will be lightest and most variable.

Current ETA predictions bring the boats into Cochin during the late evening on Saturday, November 29th. However, you are cautioned that this ETA could change significantly depending on the winds that are found off the SW coast of India. Changes in ETA are possible, especially if the winds are lighter than currently forecast.

NOTE: I will be in transit to India for the next two days. If I can get a connection when connecting in Hong Kong, I will try to update. Otherwise, you will next hear from me from Cohin on Thursday.

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