Decision time for OSTAR fleet

Those at the front of the Original Singlehanded Trans-Atlantic Race (OSTAR) fleet have only a few more hours of reaching winds, before the wind veers to the west and then the tactical decisions start.

Wind speeds for the next few days will average around 15 knots but from the west. The wave direction will move round until it is coming from the north with a height of 2 to 3 metres. Only on Sunday will the wind again strengthen as it back into the south-east. And then there is the ice.

The great circle route takes all the fleet through iceberg territory. Larger icebergs show up well on radar. However the real danger is from the growlers. Growlers are chunks of ice that have broken off. Often bigger than cars a yacht travelling at any speed hitting one will suffer damage. The problem is spotting them as the majority of the ice is under the water. The ice chart from the US Coast Guard shows how extensive the ice is. Each square with a number represents the number of icebergs within that area. The decision is to play safe and go south of the limit of all known ice or take a risk to gain miles by cutting through the less dense areas of known icebergs. The further south they choose to go the more they will be affected by the Gulf Stream trying to push them east and the less benefit they will get from The Labrador Current later.