As the Vendee Globe sailors face their first game of tactics, Alex currently sits in 2nd place. Here Alex Thomson Racing Managing Director, Stewart Hosford, talks through the options:
“The Tactical Chess Match that is happening in the Southern Atlantic over the last 24 hours and that will conclude in the next 36 hours is all about a binary question. Do I go South, sail more miles, but get the new wind coming in from the West first, or do I keep pointing at the mark that we are heading to (Ice Gate off South Africa), keep going in a straight line and sail more directly? Historically in these races, going south and getting the new wind has mostly been a winning strategy – but as the banks always say “past performance
is no guarantee of future performance” so lets see what happens.
This is a fiercely complex decision with all sorts of parameters that need to be taken in to account – such as: If I go South I sail less towards the mark and have to sail a longer distance and will it be worth it? If I go straight at it will I get attacked from the South and lose out by slowing down too much? How long will they get the wind before me? What about the guys behind? What angle of sail am I going to be sailing at in the new wind? How hard will I need to push etc?
Given that the boats that have gone south have opened up a quite sizable lateral or sideways distance to the leading trio they now need to make that ground to the East back with the new wind. At the end of it all, it boils down to one key question, which should produce an answer today – ‘How long will those that have gone more south and got the new wind have it before the leading trio get it?’ – I reckon that if they have the new wind for 12 hours before it arrives with the leading trio then they win the chess match but if they only have it for 5 hours they will lose…
At this point it is impossible to say what will happen but it is very exciting!
Wednesday 28th November
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