Dice has been rolled, Lanes have been picked
Published on October 21st, 2014
The old salts say that west is best when crossing the Atlantic Equator and its resident doldrums. But for a Volvo Ocean Race team to get west means they are giving up short-term VMG for later gains. Such is the trade off when approaching this unpredictable zone. Here Mark Chisnell provides some clarity to the clouds…
By the morning of Tuesday 21st October, the fleet have hit the Doldrums and hit them hard. The boat’s tracks have gone wobbly, speeds have plummeted and the wind arrows have reduced to little dots – the cloud battle has begun.
The navigators will have switched from strategic mode – worrying about weather models and routing software – into tactical mode, focused on the B&G radar to try and read what’s coming their way in the next cloud.
As mentioned in the Leg 1 preview, traditionally 27-28W is the best place to enter the Doldrums. Looking at the width of the fleet, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing is set up on about 29W, while 130km to the east, Team Vestas Wind are on about 27W – no one is taking a flyer here.
But looking at those faint wind arrows on the tracker, they are slightly but significantly bigger and stronger to the west. It looks like the western boats have the narrower band of Doldrums to cross. If they get an even break with the clouds, they should come out first.
Sail boat racing doesn’t always work like that though, and once they are out the other side of the Doldrums, the relative exit positions from east-to-west will still have a big impact on the drag race toward Brazil for the Fernando de Noronha waypoint in the south-east trades. An eastern boat will have a wider, faster angle… but if I had to put money on it, I’d say that this later gain isn’t going to outweigh the advantage that the western boats should have by exiting first.
Of course, these are the Doldrums, and something else entirely could happen – but for now, the dice has been rolled, the lanes have been picked and we just have to sit back and watch it play out…
Click here for Mark’s full review of the second week of Leg 1.