Four boats are within just six miles as the leaders approach the Solomon Islands, the easternmost point of which is a mark of the race course for Leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race.
Dongfeng continues to lead over team AkzoNobel, MAPFRE, and Vestas 11th Hour Racing, who are all within just six miles of each other as of 1300 UTC on Sunday.
In fact, the entire fleet has compressed significantly over the past 24 hours as the leaders raced into less stable conditions, allowing the backmarkers to close the gap.
Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag, for example, who trailed by 90 miles at 1300 UTC on Saturday, had halved that deficit by Sunday afternoon. Now only 45 miles separates first from last, and the unstable weather is expected to continue.
“It’s going to be slowish progress, but we’ve had a good run so far,” said Rob Greenhalgh from on board MAPFRE. “It’s going to be a bit of a drag race with a few clouds to contend with.”
The weather is very unpredictable. In the squalls, winds can be up to 25 knots. In the lulls, there can be as little as 5 knots.
“Today was all about cloud activity and making the best of the wind it delivered,” wrote Dee Caffari, the skipper of Turn the Tide on Plastic, sitting in fifth place, and positioned nearly 30 miles to the east of the leading group.
“There is a lot more of this kind of activity ahead looking at the satellite pictures and some of the clouds are looking very active. Whichever boat comes out of the clouds ahead first will do very well, however the light airs area of the doldrums is looking large at the moment.”
The routing software suggests the boats will ‘round’ the island of San Cristobal closely, leaving it close to port, before continuing north through the lightest winds of the doldrums. The next 48 hours will be very challenging.
“We’re going to have to be on our toes now,” said Simon Fisher, the navigator on Vestas 11th Hour Racing. “We’re expecting big changes to come in the next 24 hours.”