Leg 8 of the Volvo Race, which starts Sunday June 10, is 2,000 miles long, but will be raced in a Windward Leeward round-the-bouy's manner. There are two reasons for this. First, the course from Spain around the island of Sao Miguel in the Azores and back to Lorient in France will take the boats to weather to get out to the Azores, and then hopefully on a downwind rush to the finish. Second, the standings in thie race are incredibly close and any of four teams could win, so watch the boats ahead cover and those behind try to break free. Telefonica, which has led the standings from the start, has faltered to second while Groupama has charged to the lead. Puma is a close third, and would be leading comfortably had they not had to drop out of the first leg with a broken mast . Camper will have a tough time moving up from fourth, but is not out of touch. Including this leg, there are two offshore segments and two in port segments remaining.
The Azores high is in a westerly position right now, but is expected to move east over the next few days. The speed of these boats when reaching off just a little means that probably most will start on starboard and crack off for speed, relying on the clocking breeze to lift them up. The tack to port will be crucial. The first leg should take three days or so, and then the boats will hope to hook on to a low coming across and race downwind home, though the weather might betray them and force a second beat.
The Race Tracker has a weather overlay function, that allows wind information to be overlayed on the map showing the boats. Click on the second icon from the right above the map, which looks a little like clouds. This overlays wind icons showing direction and speed. There is a slider that shows expected conditions x hours in the future, and will let you see why professional offshore race navigators make the decisions they do.