Tomorrow sees the start of leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean race as the fleet heads out across the wide wilderness of the southern Pacific. From Wellington they will have to cross 6,700 miles of rolling seas before seeing the welcoming sight of Sugar Loaf Mountain. And by now the skippers and nagivators will have an idea of whats ahead, having had time to crunch the numbers, running scenarios and working out strategies for the days ahead.
The direct great circle path to Cape Horn drops down to 65S so ice gates have been placed at 48S to keep the high tech speedsters safely north. At the start there's a high to the east (see figure below) which will drive the boats south from the start, seeking the stronger westerlies at 50S.
A key question is how much pure southerly and how much a bit of easterly, but that will probably depend each boat's sweet spots and best points of sail. After that..... lets see what the weather brings.
Graphic from www.metvuw.com