The Volvo fleet, still led by CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson/AUS), is struggling in a dying wind, which has left in its wake a big, sloppy sea, and the exit of the South China Sea looks now to be a painful and drawn out affair.
Earlier there appeared several options open for the six teams in the approach to the Luzon Strait. Iker Martínez/ESP initially positioned Telefónica to the north, looking for the favourable wind flow that funnels through the Strait of Taiwan, but in the last hour the Spaniard has cashed in his northing and tacked back to cover the fleet.
Ken Read/USA in sixth place made the same decision, tacking PUMA’s Mar Mostro shortly before Telefónica and selecting the more conservative route. Only Mike Sanderson/NZL and Team Sanya, now rising to third place behind Groupama 4 (Franck Cammas/FRA), have chosen the southerly option. Sanya is a significantly slower boat, which forces Sanderson and his men to take a more radical approach.
Although Will Oxley, navigator with CAMPER, expects the seastate to moderate shortly, MCM Hamish Hooper reported this morning that currently this is far from the case. “I think I can speak for everyone in saying that we are looking forward to leaving the South China Sea behind,” he said miserably.
Tony Rae, one of CAMPER’s helmsmen, added: “This is like sailing in a washing machine without the soap suds unfortunately”. According to Rae, a mix of current, wind and the fact that the fleet is right where the ocean bed rises from 600 metres to only 200 metres all combine to make a pretty messy and confused ride. “Not what I would call smooth sailing,” the veteran round the world race campaigner said.
On board PUMA there is talk of canting the keel to leeward to induce heel to help avoid the belly flops that are making the crew cringe at every wave landing. “Our flat-bottomed girl aches with each flight and cries with each crash,” said MCM Amory Ross.
The first waypoint at the Philippines lies around 350 nautical miles to the northeast of the fleet. “Between us lie more of the waves we have come to hate, leftover swell from the monsoon, a few tacks, adverse current and gradually easing winds,” sums up Ross, who added that the conditions were well within early expectations.