It’s looking to be a case of feast or famine for the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean fleet as it continues the epic struggle that has been Leg 10, with it having been all famine thus far. Painful is the only word to describe the light-air start in Cardiff, Wales, on June 10, as the 11-boat fleet had scarcely enough wind to even claw its way past the race committee boat: and it hasn’t been much better since. That will soon change, though, as the fleet is forecast to encounter 40-knot winds and poor visibility as it makes its way around Scotland toward the finish in Gothenburg, Sweden. One can only imagine what the navigators are going through aboard the top three teams, Brunel, Mapfre and Dongfeng, all currently within three points of each other as they battle for the overall lead.
After almost two days at sea in the second to last stage of the 11-leg race, and with just under 1,000 miles remaining, a mere eight miles separated the first seven boats. The real race now, however, is to see who will be the first to get to the other side of the ridge of high pressure in which they are all being left gasping and hook onto the forecast south-westerlies that will ultimately allow them to last toward the top of Scotland.
“It's been very tricky since the start as I'm sure you've seen," says Mapfre skipper, Xabi Fernández. "We are a little bit nervous about crossing the ridge, as the first one through will look very good, so we are trying to gain to the west as much as can."
“Most of the boats are pretty much in a line, southeast to northwest, coming into the ridge,” says AkzoNobel watch captain Chris Nicholson. “I don’t think anyone really knows where they need to be, but we’ve pretty much stuck to our plan, so in that regard, we’re reasonably happy. Now we’re just gearing up, talking about how we’re going to change and adjust sails really efficiently from after we cross the ridge to the finish. I think that’s going to be the trick.”
The current ETA into the finish in Gothenburg, Sweden, is set for Thursday night. For the latest position reports from the fleet, click here.