Will west be best? Doldrums will soon answer

Published on October 20th, 2014

(October 20, 2014; Day 10) – A bag full of Halloween candy looks good, and certainly tastes good, but as a few Volvo Ocean Race teams learned, what follows the goodie gorge-fest is usually not as good.

Namely, taking the shortcut through the Cape Verde Islands.

When leader Dongfeng Race Team dove south through the archipelago on Sunday, soon tripling their advantage, MAPRE and Team Vestas Wind reacted to the move and followed, rising up to second and third respectively.

But the wind shadows and land affects tend to eat away at the advantage, and when the threesome met up again with the fleet, their positions were slightly worse as a result.

Gathered again on port gybe, with 100 nm between the Vestas (east) and Brunel (west), the next test is to penetrate the doldrums, a region of light converging winds and calm seas surrounding the Equator, stretching around 250nm between 2° north and 8° north,.

“The reality is that if you’re 60% right on the clouds, then you’re doing well,” admits Team Alvimedica navigator Will Oxley. “Some of the clouds are 80 miles across. It’s about more than just luck, but not much.”

This will be the Oxley’s fourteenth time crossing the Equator, and he knows just how key the next couple of days could be in the race to Cape Town. “I guess you do have to prepare psychologically. You can easily win or lose 50 miles. I’m more relaxed as I know how random it can be.”

Race meteorology expert Gonzalo Infante believes Brunel could be in an advantageous position heading into the convergence zone.

“Historically, the more west you are, the better, as there tends to be more wind there” he says. “But, alternatively, if a boat can successfully cross in a more easterly position, then they would benefit from a much better angle as they head to the Fernando de Noronha waypoint.”

With the fleet on approach, the next 24 hours will be telling.

Leg 1 Position Report (as of 18:55 UTC)
1. Team Brunel, Bouwe Bekking (NED), 4277.1 nm Distance to Finish
2. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, Ian Walker (GBR), 1.0 nm Distance to Lead
3. Dongfeng Race Team, Charles Caudrelier (FRA), 13.0 nm DTL
4. Team Vestas Wind, Chris Nicholson (AUS), 21.0 nm DTL
5. Mapfre, Iker Martinez (ESP), 21.0 nm DTL
6. Team Alvimedica, Charlie Enright (USA), 35.0 nm DTL
7. Team SCA, Sam Davies (GBR), 67.0 DTL

Race websiteTrackingWatch logVideos

Background: The 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race began Leg 1 on October 11, which takes the seven teams 6478 nm from Alicante, Spain to Cape Town, South Africa. ETA is Oct. 31 – Nov. 9. Racing the new one design Volvo Ocean 65, teams will be scoring points in 9 offshore legs to determine the overall Volvo Ocean Race winner. Additionally, the teams will compete in 10 In-Port races at each stopover for a separate competition – the Volvo Ocean Race In-Port Series. Final finish on June 27, 2015 in Gothenburg, Sweden.

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