With less than 100 nm between the lead boat, Donfeng Race Team, and the last, Team SCA, leaving the wind shadow southwest of Sri Lanka was welcome relief. The teams are now duking it out in the Bay of Bengal, all aiming for the entrance of the Malacca Strait, three days to their east. Sanya is still 2,400nm and two weeks away.
More, from VOR HQ, below.
It took them nine days to leave Abu Dhabi, cross the Gulf, follow the Pakistani coast, sail down the whole western coast of India, and finally hit some wind.
“Finally, we’re seeing what we signed up for,” beams Rafa Trujillo, hanging onto MAPFRE’s stern. He’s covered in salt water and grins like a five-year-old.
Somewhere between the southern tip of India and Sri Lanka, the breeze kicked in overnight and the accelerating effect of the Laccadive Sea came into play, just like water in a funnel.
“Into the evening the wind was a whisper though we could see huge swells coming at us from the southeast – generated by the heavy breeze shooting through the gap between India and Sri Lanka,” blogged Matt Knighton.
“The wind built quite quickly as night fell, to the point where we were very heeled over and having to re-learn to walk through the boat on its side again,” he said, hunched over Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s media desk as the carbon shell pushed through the waves.
Sailors are smiling. They’re “sending it,” to use the words of an ecstatic Jack Bouttell on Dongfeng, still the leading boat after a great move north to cut the corner around Sri Lanka. But back on MAPFRE, Rafa tempers his excitement. The Spanish Olympic silver medallist is naturally enthusiastic and a force of nature, but “it’s only for another 20 hours until we hit another wind shadow,” he sighs. “La verdad, the team has been making gains for two days now and we’re fired up, but a fourth place still doesn’t feel like it’s enough.”
In fact, the fleet has already started to compress, hitting the parking lot southwest of Sri Lanka right about now – yet another light air area caused by the high mountains of the land nearby. The Dongfeng men are doing six knots, but the chasing pack is coming back at twice the speed.
How much longer can the Chinese hold on?
Text by Agathe Armand