The Volvo Ocean Race will kick back into action this weekend with all six teams once again going head to head when the Leg 7 race to Lisbon, Portugal starts on Sunday (May 20) at 1300 local time/0500 Mon NZT.
The leg sees the boats returning to Europe for the first time in six months and with just 17 points separating the top four boats a fierce scrap is on the cards.
It may not be a ‘traditional’ route across the Atlantic, but the 3590 nautical mile race from Miami to Lisbon promises to offer plenty of tactical challenges, and the potential for conditions as rough as seen in the Southern Ocean.
Historically, the transatlantic leg of the race has started in the mid-latitudes of Boston or New York and finished in the UK via the Great Circle Route high into the north of the ocean, but this time round things have been mixed up, starting in the tropical latitudes.
This opens up a wealth of options for the teams as they weigh up whether to take the classic route north, or try to cut the corner and head straight for Lisbon.
Right out of the blocks the first major issue for the crew of CAMPER will be thinking about the Gulf Stream, the powerful current that runs north up the coast of the United States, and whether they can use it to their advantage.
The Gulf Stream could add three or four knots of positive current to boat speed if their overall game plan takes them north.
A route up the coast of the United States could also pay benefits thanks to the regular formation of low pressure systems off Cape Hatteras in North Carolina which follow the path of the Gulf Stream.
The two combined could catapult a team high into the North Atlantic – however with four days still to go to the start of the leg, it’s unclear at this time whether this route will pay.
The key to success will be how CAMPER navigates the biggest hurdle of Leg 7 – the sub-tropical high pressure system that sits in the middle of the North Atlantic.
The traditional route would take them over the top of it, but, if a cold front splits the high in half there’s every chance of taking a much more direct route to Lisbon.
The worst of the weather will be in the westerlies that follow in the path of the low pressure systems like a conveyor belt.
Strong winds and big seas characterise the depths of the North Atlantic before the fleet can finally turn south and head towards Lisbon, hooking into the Portuguese trade winds for a final few days of fast sailing.
With plenty of heavy weather running on the cards conditions should suit CAMPER and the team are determined to grab as many points as possible in order to edge further up the leader board. Stay tuned it’s going to be a fascinating leg.
Leg 7 starts at 1300 local time on May 20, following May 19’s In-Port Race. It is expected to take around 11 days to complete.