Ericsson Meteorologist: Ignore the official leg leaderboard
[Source: Chris Bedford, Ericsson Meteorologist] Just a reminder to everyone to please ignore the Volvo leaderboard for the next 7 days or so. The race office is calculating the places on the leg based upon distance to the finish. But this leg is unusual with the scoring line at 58E and the need to sail east for several days prior to turning north. The boats that are behind (on a east to west position) will, at times, calculate to be closer to the finish (on a more northeast to southwest position). In fact, we envisioned cases where the boat in last place to the finish actually won the scoring gate AND the leg; such is the complex nature of the leg geometry and weather. Anyway, it should all become obvious soon, and there will be a time sometime about halfway through the leg (and after the scoring gate) when the leaderboard will start to make sense once again.
Over the last week, we ran tens of thousands routing simulations on approximately 1,500 different computer model forecasts. All of that led to the development of our overall leg plan. The details of that plan are complex, but in short, that plan was to get south across a ridge of high pressure and light winds south of Cape Town, then scream east on a 20- to 30-knot, gusting 35-knot, west-to-southwest wind field developing around a deepening low pressure south of the area. This will carry the boat quickly toward the scoring way line at 58E. From there (or even a little before that), the weather will dictate a turn to the north where they will cross the sub-tropical high pressure ridge once more and head into the firm southeasterly trades south of the Equator and Indian Ocean doldrums.
Ericsson 4 at the start of the 2nd leg. Cape Town, 15 November 2008. Photo copyright Rick Tomlinson / Volvo Ocean Race
So far, Ericsson 4 has followed the plan very effectively - in part due to their excellent sail out of Table Bay and around the Cape of Good Hope yesterday afternoon and evening. Ericsson 3 is also following the basic plan very closely. Both boats are already through the ridge and starting to feel increasing west and eventually southwest winds, which will accelerate quickly today through tomorrow. Their slow boatspeeds this morning will soon be a thing of the past, and they could very well be making 20+ knot speeds toward the east by tonight.
So, some very exciting days coming up, with fast sailing, rough conditions, and very fast boat speeds. Will the record be broken again? I don't think so, but it could be close!