Leg 7 of the Volvo Ocean Race began Sunday with a bang. The leg runs from Miami to Lisbon, Spain and Tropical Storm Alberto, an unusual May Atlantic storm, is right in the path of the racers, and forced some immediate tactical decisions.
The dominant feature of the early part of this leg is the Gulf Stream, which offers a band of favorable current as the boats climb north. The Volvo boats are quick enough, though, that strong wind from the right direction trumps the boost of current. Groupama has stretched to a 50 mile lead after little more than 24 hours of racing as the result of a bold move east right across the stream into the favorable winds on the southeast side of Alberto. She passed close to the eye of the storm, as noted by the National Hurricane Center.
Miami is further south than most races or trips across the Atlantic start from, and the boats will want to work north into the favorable westerlies that will speed them across, so the question of how to use the Gulf Stream may present itself again, but for now Groupama has made and won the first bet of the leg. It does not appear that the boats will be fast enough to ride Alberto for long.
The Volvo Race tracker is excellent, and is updated frequently. Volvo Race Tracker.