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Women's Volvo Team Wins Start of Leg 6


Amer Sports Too won the start of leg six of the Volvo Ocean Race at Miami today, demonstrating good tactics and showing a good burst of speed.

Race offcials ruled six of the eight starters were over the line at the gun and they had to return and restart. But Amer Sports Too skipper Lisa McDonald and her husband Neal, skipper of Assa Abloy, did not cross the line early and took a morale-boosting lead.

With Assa Abloy in hot pursuit, Amer Sports Too started eating the miles to Baltimore, while the rest of the fleet headed in the opposite direction.

Illbruck, anticipating a recall, was first yacht to restart. Amer Sports One got the message too, and went back to start again, dropping their spinnaker and sailing upwind to the start line.

Amer Sports Too, unfettered by a recall, revelled in the 18-knot, east-south-east, reaching at 13.5 knots to the first turning mark. Amer Sports Too rounded the mark 400 metres ahead of Assa Abloy. Illbruck were closing in on Assa Abloy and about 800 metres behind, Amer Sports One led the other five boats towards the second mark.

But it is early days, even in a leg that is only 875 nautical miles up the US east coast and up Chesapeake Bay to Baltimore. As the yachts settled down from the chaos of the start into their first evening at sea, Assa Abloy and Illbruck took over the lead, with Amer Sports Too and Amer Sports One powering after them.

As the experts were saying, it might have been a dramatic start but it's the positions at dawn that will be more interesting.

Amer Sports One tactician Dee Smith said earlier: “It is all about how you work the Gulf Stream. "You have to decide when to use the current, when to wait for it, how to use the fronts. It will be a leg of decision after decisioon after decision.

"The crew that makes the most correct decisions will be first into Baltimore."

Lisa McDonald also has some local knowledge on board Amer Sports Too. Watch captain Katie Pettibone is a graduate of the University of Miami. “Katie’s knowledge of Florida waters is superb; she has done a lot of sailing in the Miami area, for getting out of here. Melissa Purdy is also back for this leg. Her tactical background will be invaluable."

Tactically, this leg can can be a nightmare. The Gulf Stream flows north like a river of warm water at two to four knots along the edge of the continental shelf. It turns east near Cape Hatteras. Skippers and navigators will concentrate on getting into the current’s main stream, which can have a marked benefit on boat speed.

Early forecasts for the start next week are for light winds The wind’s strength will depend upon the position and size of the Azores High. Further north transient depressions and fronts will have more of an effect.

Cold fronts can bring strong winds from the north, creating steep, dangerous sea in the Gulf Stream. Cape Hatteras, which the yachts round for the approach to Chesapeake Bay, has a reputation as an area where storms are spawned. Here the Gulf Stream’s warm waters meet cold currents from the north and violent storms can erupt with little warning.

The run into the Chesapeake Bay is likely to be made in lighter, more variable winds as the influence of the Gulf Stream is moderated by the land to the west. In the Bay itself, navigators must be wary of the many shifting sandbanks.

The Met Office weather forecast for Miami area and 400 nm north is for the area of high pressure off Newfoundland is expected to slowly move east-southeast in to the central North Atlantic.

Wind: East-southeast winds of 15 to knots becoming more south-southeast later.

Seas: Moderate and the open waters off Miami, and rough once they got out into Atlantic ocean.

Weather: Scattered showers, locally thundery, most frequent over/near land, but a few expected over open waters.

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