Wednesday, December 17, 2008

VOR fleet split, Telefonica Blue makes gains south

[Source: Chris Bedford, Ericsson Meteorologist] The big split is on with all but the current leg leader, Telefonica Blue, heading toward the north or “high road” toward the scoring gate. Could this be the moment of truth for Blue’s strategy? Well, let’s just say that on this leg, it is “a” moment of truth, with many more likely to come!

There is more wind to the north and Ericsson 4 and the rest of the more northerly positioned boats are able to take advantage of that today. Indeed Blues lead has been up and down by a few miles each sked, though essentially unchanged. Things could get a little exciting in the north today as a fairly strong tropical wave is forecast to move over the fleet today with some large squalls likely to effect all the northern boats in the next 6-12 hours (see the attached image). Telefonica Blue is in the clear on this one, and looks to have steadier sailing conditions, though their average wind speed will be less than the boats to the north and tending to ease.

Ericsson 4 struggles in very light winds and crew has to ration food and oil. 17 December 2008. Video copyright Ericsson Racing Team

As I mentioned yesterday, the northerly position looked better in the medium to long term, and its clear that Ericsson 4 bought into this idea sometime ago. Ericsson 3 has also joined the ranks in the north, though not quite to the extent of international crew and is now essentially the middle boat. Unfortunately, that forecast trend is slightly less optimistic today.

Today’s forecast and modeling shows that the time to the scoring gate is approximately equal for Ericsson 4 and Telefonica Blue. But, one thing the computer does not take into account is sea state. The waves are going to be rougher in the north around Ericsson 4, and this could have a negative effect on their performance relatively to Telefonica Blue. Blue will eventually have to come north, but the longer they can stay south in less seaway, the more miles they may be able to put between themselves and the rest of the fleet.

Still there is a long way to go and there will be many more hurdles. Ericsson 4 is now more likely to adopt a strategy to keep them in second place, in hopes that Telefonica Blue’s position falters in the separation. Meanwhile Ericsson 3 will be looking for the slightest bit of leverage – and luck – to allow them to sail up the fleet to a better position.

Half lunches aboard Ericsson 4!!! 17 December 2008. Video copyright Ericsson Racing Team

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