While the Volvo Ocean Race teams were required to round the Solomon Islands before heading north into the Philippine Sea, there are no course restrictions for the virtual fleet of almost 55,000 sailors.
So while some virtual sailors have opted for the conventional route north through the Doldrums and into the trade winds before turning west to Hong Kong, others have taken a more unusual route south of Papua New Guinea.
To get to the South China Sea and the finish line in Hong Kong, they will have to pick their way through Indonesia’s countless islands and past the Philippines. Although more treacherous and complicated, with potentially lighter winds, it is a far shorter route.
Usually offshore sailors would shun this option but for Serbian player momcilo-JK-Ada, sitting in second place, the gamble is paying off so far. Third-placed DaanG from The Netherlands is hot on momcilo-JK-Ada’s heels, but the whereabouts of first-placed patmaillou 94 FV-R from France remains a mystery – because they’ve deployed stealth mode.
The leading players are now over the halfway mark, with a little less than 2,500 miles left to go. Because of the huge difference in course choices, the fleet is much further split than in prior legs. In fact, the top 50 players are divided by 134 miles, but that could all change depending on which option pays off.