The City of Miami has bid farewell to the six boats and sixty-six crew members now heading across the Atlantic to the southern Portugal city of Lisbon.
Light winds saw the racers drifting along as they left in view of Miami’s South Beach, which was an emotional moment for many. Hometown skipper Ken Read perhaps summed it up best: “It is sad to leave, but at the same time we have a job to do so we have to go do it.”
The racers will now encounter Tropical Storm Alberto as they make their way north towards North Carolina, before turning into the Atlantic on the 3,590 nm leg. While the storm may produce crucial winds for the fleet, it should be treated with utmost caution as well.
The formation of Tropical Storm Alberto may have put an end to the traditional route up the coast using the Gulf Stream as a catapult but it will reward the teams with fast sailing in decent breeze if they play it correctly. Get it wrong, and they could quickly find themselves in dangerous conditions.
Navigator Tom Addis, mastermind of PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG’s back to back leg wins, said the race to pick up the winds generated by Alberto could prove critical in the bid to get an early advantage.
“The storm is the source of pressure for us to get north and east on so it’s important to try to feed into that pressure first,” he said.
“You don’t want to be the wrong side of that low because the current against wind in the Gulf Stream would give quite a heinous sea state. It looks like there will be plenty of good downwind in the next leg, a reasonably fast leg, which we always enjoy.”
Abu Dhabi navigator Jules Salter said he hoped to use the weather system to fire them into the Atlantic Ocean.
“In some ways it’s quite good – it’s giving us some downwind conditions once we get up past Cape Canaveral and up towards Cape Hatteras so we’re kind of cutting the corner and probably sailing a more direct route that we would have done if the storm wasn’t there.
“It’s quite light for the first part of the forecast so it will be about finding wind in the first 48 hours. The closer we can get to it the better – it will give us a bit of a catapult out of the way.”
After the disappointment of finishing last in the PORTMIAMI In-Port Race, Telefónica navigator Andrew Cape said his team were looking forward to getting back to rediscovering the form which saw them win the first three offshore legs.
“We’re an offshore boat, an offshore team, and yeah, sure we had a bad day yesterday but that was yesterday and we’ll just get on with it,” he said.
Volvo Ocean Race meteorologist Gonzalo Infante said the key to early success depended on how well the teams use Tropical Storm Alberto.
“The fleet face a tricky first few hours of the race in light, unstable winds while trying to maximise the effects of the Gulf Stream,” he said.
“The first boat to reach the lower part of Tropical Storm Alberto will stretch their lead but the big question facing the fleet is how close to the centre of the system to go. Winds are forecast to hit 45 knots, which are no good for anything apart from breaking boats. This storm needs to be treated with plenty of respect.”
Photos by Paul Todd / Volvo Ocean Race.