The favourable east to southeast winds which carried the seven Volvo Ocean Race 2017-2018 contenders so positively through the Straits of Gibralter and into the Atlantic are already a fading memory writes W M Nixon.
The leaders – with Vestas 11th Hour Racing still the pathfinder, and Damian Foxall in a senior crew role - are dealing this morning with the here-and-now of light headwinds, and a large area of calm which is threateningly near to their track southwestwards to the first turn at the island of Porto Santo in the Madeira group.
After that, they can head northeast to the finish of Leg 1 at Lisbon, by which time 1,450 miles will seem much longer than most crew had anticipated. Vestas’ closest challenger is the pre-race favourite Mapfre, but her challenge comes from far away as she tacks westward some distance to the northwest, with the boat actually closest on the water to the leader being AkzoNobel.
The other four boats, including Turn the Tide on Plastic with Annalise Murphy on board, are in a closely-backed group northeast of Vestas, all making between 9.5 and 10.5 knots. In her weekly diary in the Irish Times this morning, Annalise reports on her relief in finding she hasn’t been affected by seasickness, her joy in achieving even two hours of uninterrupted sleep, and the fascination of racing so closely with the other three boats nearby, thereby greatly speeding her growing awareness of what gives a Volvo Ocean 65 an extra knot or two of vital speed.
And of course she alludes to that crazy start sequence on Sunday which we featured here on Afloat.ie, when a fleet of racing boats which have cost tens of millions of Euros to build, tune and crew, found themselves making their start through a spectator fleet of mini-liners which seemed determined to risk everything by closing vital gaps in order to give their paying passengers an even more intimate view of the proceedings.
Race tracker here