The middle boats have closed up with the leaders some, but in…

The middle boats have closed up with the leaders some, but in that leading group of three it looks like ADOR has just a bit more boatspeed. Anyway, ADOR is in the lead as the boats surf east to skim along the northern edge of the ice exclusion zone. Unfortunately for Mapfre and SCA, it looks like they missed the bus and won’t be getting much benefit from this weather system.

There was a video on the official VOR channel yesterday in which Knut Frostad, the CEO of the race organization, explained why they added this ice restriction. Apparently the satellite data that is used to monitor icebergs showed that an iceberg more than 200 meters long was located in a path the boats might be inclined to take. (And as it turns out, that they probably would have taken.)

The screenshot in the video makes it look like the berg is located at about 45°S 15°W. A big berg like that isn’t so dangerous in and of itself, because the racers can see it on radar and avoid it. It’s the smaller bergs (called “bergy bits”, which I’ve always thought sounded cute) and even smaller bergs (called “growlers”) that calve off from the big bergs that you have to worry about. Growlers don’t show up on radar. But a chunk of ice the size of a railroad car can easily sink an ultralight sailboat surfing at 30 knots.

Knut talks in the interview about being on the 2001-2002 Volvo, when the fleet ended up sailing into lots of ice. There’s a cool interview in which Gordon Maguire, who was a crewmember on another boat in that race, describes what it was like to be on the helm during that time. It was Maguire’s fourth time in the Volvo, but as he describes in the interview that experience made him decide it was his last.

I’m a fan of the ice restrictions. It’s already a dangerous, high-risk competition. In the heat of the moment, racers shouldn’t have to decide whether to risk going into an area with known ice.

Once the fleet is past the eastern limit of the exclusion zone, expect them to dive south for more wind. Brr! It’s going to get cold.

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Tags: vor, volvo ocean race.

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