VOR Leg 7 – Anything can still happen

vor dongfeng 6b17af57-4319-4053-8a56-1dbf61f4cbc2The fleet has passed the 1,000 nautical milestone to the finish, although it is still anyone’s game and race to win.

Dongfeng’s Yann Riou wrote: “In the past 6 hours we could have rewritten this update at least three times on the tactics side, as the choices made by each team finally play out. Closest to the centre, the boats stuck together for a few days now, Brunel and Mapfre, saw the wind drop down to 7-9 knots first. Probably too late to gybe to north, they’ve stuck to their choice and have been swapping the lead based on DTF with Dongfeng. To the north, Abu Dhabi and Alvimedica haven’t seen the breeze drop off yet and are sailing in 2-3 knots more than our boys who are in the middle. Until an hour or two again we’d been holding the same wind as them, but at the last report we’ve seen the wind drop too like the southerners.

The distance to finish DTF isn’t the key number right now – getting east to the new wind is what matters, but of course it’s not clear if this new wind will arrive first in North or South. Keep your eyes on the wind direction data at each report!

Are the northerners going to sail over the top and in to the lead – along with a better wind angle towards Lisbon once in the new north/north East wind? Or will the guys in the south manage to get to the new wind that is awaiting the fleet in the east first?

Tension! BUT for once as tweeted by Yann, each group can no longer see the other groups on AIS so they just have the 6 hourly position reports. The next one they get is in a few hours time…it will be highly anticipated and will likely bring both disappointment and happiness!

“The die is cast. Each team has chosen their own way into the Azores high, the only thing we can do now is make the best of our particular situation.”

And then it all changed again…!

It was a painful night for Dongfeng as MAPFRE and Brunel sailed past in the same water.

After what seemed like a textbook passage of the ridge of high pressure, the determined men of Dongfeng had a terrible night, watching their hard fought lead disappear with the wind…

So now they are back to fighting to retake the lead, with Mapfre and Brunel, long time ‘partners’ on this leg. Not easy in what will be straight line sailing for the next 700 miles, with really no tactical options to take. Whilst much of the hype about this leg has been about Abu Dhabi’s lead over Dongfeng in the overall standings, Brunel is only 4 points adrift of Dongfeng, with a clear advantage on the tie-breaker In-Port series. They are a major threat to Dongfeng’s 2nd place. At the same time, whilst no doubt they will grind their way back in the stronger winds tomorrow, Abu Dhabi finds itself in a very rare last place, as SCA have successfully sailed around and over them to the north. We are sure to see them in the final chapter of this leg though.

The wind SHOULD (but then that was the case yesterday too) now continue to strengthen from the north, and by tomorrow the fleet will be very wet again close reaching towards Cascais at the entrance to the estuary that leads to the finish line in Lisbon. That final stretch could see the entire pack turn on its head again, with a sudden transition from strong accelerated winds off Cabo Roca lighthouse, the western most point of Europe, to the sheltered waters leading up to the city. This morning off Cascais there were huge patches of total calm. Anything can happen still – and it will, of that there is absolutely no doubt!