Week four of the Portimão Global Ocean Race has all been about gains, or losses, depending upon your perspective. Gains for the chasing pack of Desafio Cabo de Hornos and Team Mowgli, and a big loss for Belga Racer as the German team ran slap bang into tactical mine fileld.
Week four of the Portimão Global Ocean RaceWeek four of the Portimão Global Ocean Race

Early in the week a low pressure cell spinning off the South American coast gave co-skippers Boris Herrmann and Felix Oehme a fast ride on a direct course for Cape Town. But the wind gods giveth and the wind gods taketh, and despite some good weather modeling from both US and European meteorological offices the boys on Beluga Racer found themselves staring straight at a region of high pressure directly in their path. High pressure means great beach weather, but no wind. To their credit they realized the odds were stacking against them and took immediate action by making a sharp turn to the right and sailing south as fast as possible. They were not a moment too soon.

Astern of Beluga Racer the cat and mouse battle that had been taking place between Desafio Cabo de Hornos and Team Mowgli since leaving the doldrums, continued all week with the lead changing numerous times. Both teams watched with growing interest as Beluga Racer ran into difficulties, and while they kept their slide south going at full speed in a decent breeze, they also closed to the east. The 600 plus mile lead Beluga Racer once enjoyed slowly got eaten away until the gap was down to 275. Not a lot of miles when the hunters smell blood.

As the week drew to an end once again the unusual weather became the main story. The high pressure that taunted Beluga Racer finally moved off and dissipated only to reappear behind and to the south of Beluga Racer, and directly to the south of the two chasing Class 40s and the leading solo sailor, Michel Kleinjans on Roaring Forty. The wind around high pressure systems rotate anti-clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere. If the system is behind and to the south of you, as it is for Boris and Felix, you get a steady breeze on the beam. If the wind is due south, as it if for Team Mowgli and Desafio Cabo de Hornos, you get headwinds. Strong, steady, crash and bang headwinds. At the 12:20 UTC poll on Sunday the Germans were laughing all the way to the mile-bank creaming along on a nice beam reach. Three hundred miles astern Desafio Cabo de Hornos had tacked to the south, a tough and slow point of sail. Round 2 to the Germans.

The small ridge of high pressure is due to move to the east. If it does as forecast things will change, once again. The Germans will find themselves hard on the wind and those chasing will get lifted on port. It’s a giant chess board with the boats the pieces and wind systems the board. The next few days are going to be very interesting, as usual.


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