ere we go again. The last ocean crossing of the "Whitbread" era. As you know by now, the race will be called the "Volvo Ocean Race"
The race will be over in three weeks from now as we will finish in
Southampton on Sunday May 24th. It has been a long hard race but
now is no time to let up.
For us on EFL, our goal for this leg is clear beat Swedish Match
or finish within one place of her and the Whitbread Race is ours.
So, our basic strategy will be to stay close to her and try to beat
her going in the same general area. It is somewhat unexciting to
start a race knowing that your tactics are governed by someone
else, but that is probably a small price to pay for reducing the
risk of them getting four boats between us at the finish in La
Rochelle. It is boring but the professional thing to do.
Having said all that, Mark Rudiger has put more effort into
preparing for this leg than any of the others, studying the weather
and Gulf Stream for one week straight. There will be a choice for
the fleet immediately upon exiting the Chesapeake do we go on the
longer eastern route to catch the advantageous current of the Gulf
Stream or do we crack off onto the shortest course, Great Circle
Route, and get the near-term gains.
Opting for the Gulf Stream is
an investment in the future. For sure in the first few days,
those who go east for the "Stream" will be behind those who go
straight on course. But the question is over time, let's say
until Friday which course will prove to be the winner.
There is no simple answer to that and thatís why there will
probably be at least one boat in each corner. That's also why we
should stay close to Swedish and hopefully why they may stay close
to Merit, who is in third.
The Azores high is wildly out of place at the moment and is
forecast to be right on top of us on Friday as we pass the
limiting way point imposed by the Race committee at 46N 45W. If
the high stays north, we will be squeezed up against the limit mark,
trying to stay out from under the center of the high, which has no
wind. This could have the effect of slowing the race down and
slowing the leaders, who arrive there first and allowing the
trailers to catch up.
The limit mark was imposed to keep the fleet from getting into a
lot of ice that is drifting south with the Labrador Current.
Still, we will have 35°F (2°C) water for a few days and the
possibility of more ice than any other leg of the race.
In summary, this is not a straight-forward leg.
I am very proud, as an American, of the interest shown in
Baltimore and Annapolis for this race and our sport. 250,000
people on the docks per day is nothing to sneeze at for any sport.
Neither is 14 million hits per day on the Internet site. Todays'
start will be live on ESPN 2. ABC Nightline, with Ted Koppell, will
feature the Whitbread on Friday, May 9th, and I spoke at the
National Geographic society on April 24th about the article
featuring EF in their May issue.
This enthusiasm has further confirmed my belief that the general public can become consumed by our sport if presented in the right way and if we can expose it to
them, which this race has done so well.
I plan to continue this
momentum with my America's Cup challenge, AmericaOne, and I invite
all of you to share my dream of bringing the Cup back to America and hosting it in the best natural sailing stadium in the world, San Francisco Bay, so that many millions more can touch and feel our sport.
Thanks Baltimore and Annapolis, you have done America proud and
ensured that the Volvo Ocean Race will be back in four years.