Coral reefs, massive windshadows and bizarre tidal surges are among the myriad of risks the daring fleet in the west will negotiate in the Solomon Island archipelago largely with paper charts pulled from storage in recent days.
“Even though it’s not the preferred option, the boats in the east will be feeling a little nervous with such a separation.’’ CAMPER navigator Will Oxley
Team Telefónica, CAMPER and Team Sanya are trailblazing between islands Santa Isabel and Choiseul in a bid to cut a corner and reduce the more than 100 nautical mile gap with leg leader Groupama sailing team.
Knowing all too well that you can never catch a yacht by following the same course the three teams veered towards the archipelago on Saturday morning, much to the surprise of the three teams in the east.
“Even though it’s not the preferred option, the boats in the east will be feeling a little nervous with such a separation,’’ CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand navigator Will Oxley said.
Oxley said the decision to take the Solomon’s route was not a flippant choice, rather it was one that resulted from years of research.
The two-time Volvo competitor first looked at the possible route more than one year ago while researching the leg. It was then that he realised that the charting software had no agreement with the Solomon’s, rendering it without detail.
Oxley said he was using alternate software and paper maps to navigate the tricky route and “hopefully get through unscathed”.
First of the many challenges the teams will encounter is negotiating the gap between the islands which is littered with reefs.
“Theoretically you can go across the reef in any place, it’s deep enough,’’ he said. “But, if there is any swell it will be breaking, so it will be dangerous.
“We’re going to go through the ship passage initially, and then as day comes we’ll have someone up the rig and try to cut a few corners assuming the visibility is good.’’
The rare occurrence of a once a day tide to the south of the Solomon’s is another issue Oxley said.
“It’s very weird and one of only a few places in the world where this happens,’’ he said. “We’ve done as much research as we can on this, and think we will approach before dawn.”
Finally, and possibly the most problematic of risks, is the giant windshadows caused by the massive volcanic mountains, higher than 2000 metres in some cases, rising from the many islands.
“As we get south we have to pass to the west of Guadalcanal, one of the highest mountains in the area,” Oxley said. “We’re hoping to be 50-60 miles to the west from there.
“Nonetheless, we’re likely to see significant shadowing, wind speeds are likely to drop but hopefully just to five to eight knots. If we can keep moving through there then I think we’ll be in good shape, but that’s the challenge.”
Oxley reckons CAMPER will continue to make gains until they get to the gap between the islands, where they will start to post some losses.
Once they’re south of Guadalcanal he expects they will again make some ground, with the final verdict expected in about a week’s time when the fleet nears New Zealand’s Cape Reinga.
A low pressure system currently causing wild conditions over New Zealand could also come into play Oxley said, as such a system tends to disrupt the trade winds in the east, which will then cause new trades to fill in from the west.
“There’s further probability that west is best, that’s another deciding factor for us,’’ he said.
- 17 May 2012Rivals seek closing advantage with new tricks
- 3 Mar 2012Abu Dhabi considered easy pickings by western counterparts
- 29 Feb 2012Relentless pace begins to take its toll
- 25 Feb 2012Sayonara Japan: PUMA pounce back
- 3 Feb 2012Telefónica on course for third leg win
- 26 Jan 2012CAMPER take lead on big day for Nicholson