American skipper Redshift307 currently leads the fleet of almost 60,000 virtual skippers with a 1.7 nautical mile lead on RAK from the United Arab Emirates in second who is positioned slightly more south. A few miles to the north, the Swedish player QBank is in third place 2.53nm behind the leader. Interestingly, the frontrunners have lined themselves up much further south than the real Volvo Ocean Race teams.
This is in part due to the fact that, unlike in the real race, the Volvo Ocean Race game players are not constricted by an ice exclusion zone. This will allow them to dive further south, effectively shortening the distance to the Leg 3 finish line in Melbourne, Australia, while profiting from better breeze.
The game players have to deal with real-time weather conditions, and just like with the Volvo Ocean Race teams the talk among virtual skippers will be of the impending depression due to hit the fleet on Thursday. The wind is due to increase quickly to as much as 60 knots, while the waves will reach 15 metres – almost as tall as a Volvo Ocean 65 turned on its end.
The Volvo Ocean Race teams are likely to gybe to the north-east so as to avoid getting pinned against the exclusion zone when the depression sweeps in – but with no exclusion zone to avoid it might pay for the virtual skippers to be further south. At 6,500 miles long the third leg is expected to take around 14 days to complete – so players could be glued to their screens right up until Christmas Day.