calm like a bomb

Henry Bomby breaks the RdR down for us. Enjoy.

So the weather news for the start of the Route du Rhum 2014 is that the first 24-36 hours are going to be pretty lumpy and upwind.

ensemble routeThis is due to a well formed low pressure system that is passing over the north of the British Isles, with an associated cold front on its southern side that the fleet must cross. The Azores high pressure system (HP1) is also well formed, stable and is currently positioned over the Azores, helping create strong trade winds to the south.

The teams will be crossing the cold front early tomorrow morning, and will experience strong upwind conditions (gusting 40+kts) in the English Channel tomorrow afternoon/evening.

Ensemble routing (left) showing the 3 different options. Split 3 North, 12 Middle, 5 South.

There are then 3 options for the skippers to choose from once crossing the front on Monday and they all centre very heavily around the activity and movement of the Azores high pressure (HP1) over the coming days.

north 1Option 1 is the northerly option, and is the ‘upwind hog’ route. As you can see from the ensemble routing above for the IMOCA 60’s, only 3 of the 20 routings have the Northerly option paying. This northerly route will ONLY work if the trades don’t come in as strong due to an unsettling of HP1, AND if this coincides with a strong low pressure system forming off the north American coast. Creating Westerly, not Southerly winds in the North Atlantic allowing the teams to get south later. This is by far the riskiest option of the lot and crucially only has it paying over the southerly or rhum line options by an hour. Huge risk, for minimal reward. Hopefully someone will take the flier for our interest, but don’t expect it to be a favourite.

Northern option. Risky for little reward, but lets hope someone tries it.

middle 1Option 2 is the middle of the road, or the ‘rhum line for rhum’ route, and is one most boats will follow at least initially. The GFS 1.0 ensemble forecast of yesterday afternoon has this play currently favoured with 12 of the 20 routings heading this way. This option has the Azores high moving very far West towards the coast of America, allowing the skippers to point their bows almost directly at Gaudeloupe while still passing to the East of the high pressure in downwind conditions. After crossing the front on Monday, this is the safest most conservative route by a long way. Sailing less distance, AND still with the option to go south without losing too many miles if more accurate forecasts later give HP1 moving back East.

The heavily favoured option, conservative and flexible whilst sailing the least miles.

south 1Option 3 is the southerly route, or the ‘sunshine happy holiday’. Here the boats would look to slide down the corridor to the East of the Azores high pressure. These forecasts have HP1 staying located over the Azores rather than heading West as in Option 2. Currently with only 5 of the 20 routings taking you this way, it again is a riskier option as you will be forced to commit early on to sailing more distance, with less ability to adapt your routing to the changeable forecast if needed. It will however be the most enjoyable ride, so expect some skippers to commit to this route early in the hope to make the most of the gains if it pans out this way. Read on.

Title inspiration thanks to Rage.