The Volvo Ocean Race fleet has been making ground to the northeast over the past 24 hours, the northerly component of their progress largely as a result of the Antarctica Ice Exclusion Zone (AIEZ) being shifted to the north yesterday. On Friday afternoon, Race Control learned of an iceberg to the northeast of the Kerguelen Islands. To ensure the safety of the sailors, the AIEZ was moved to the north, to keep the fleet out of a known iceberg area.
“The safety of the crews is our first priority. We do not want teams surfing down waves at over 25 knots of boatspeed at night, in an area where we have been told there is a significant risk of encountering ice,” explained Race Director Phil Lawrence.
The wind is still up at the moment – 20 to 25 knots, and gusting upwards of 35 knots at times, in squally conditions.
“When you furl the FR0 (fractional code zero headsail) and have two reefs and the J3 (small jib) for a squall and the boat is still doing 30 knots, you know it's pretty windy!” is the way Turn the Tide on Plastic skipper Dee Caffari described it in a tweet on Saturday morning.
But there are also occasional light patches around. Fall into one of these and the mood on the boat darkens with the suspicion that the opposition is charging along at full speed while you’re trying to regain the wind.
Earlier this morning, Vestas 11th hour racing fell into a lighter area and skipper Charlie Enright has been preparing for the worst as he waits for the next position sked.
“It's been a frustrating day of sailing through clouds but we ground through it as best we can,” he said. “It's a foreseen circumstance that the guys behind us are going to come into us, but hopefully a little less because of the effort we've put in.”
At the front of the fleet, Dongfeng continues to lead MAPFRE in a charge to the northern tip of the exclusion zone.
Some 375 miles further back, team AkzoNobel is still working flat out to make a repair on their mast track which would allow them to get back up to full speed. For the moment, the team is racing under headsail alone, slower than the rest of the fleet, and falling further back with each position report.
Leg 3 – Position Report – Saturday 16 December (Day 7) – 13:00 UTC
1. Donfeng Race Team -- distance to finish – 3,453.6 nautical miles
2. MAPFRE +15.0 nautical miles
3. Vestas 11th Hour Racing +99.3
4. Team Brunel +167.3
5. Sun Hung Kai / Scallywag +176.6
6. Turn the Tide on Plastic +202.5
7. team AkzoNobel +377.3