Getting anxious to leave the Doldrums

Published on October 22nd, 2014

(October 22, 2014; Day 12) – As the Volvo Ocean Race teams woke up this morning on the first leg of the race from Alicante to Cape Town, Abu Dhabi was in the lead with a fleet spread of 170 nm, the wind speed differing across the fleet from 6 knots down to nothing, from an average direction of 60º. Maybe west was best after all, at least it was for Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and Team Brunel, who stuck together (just 45nm apart in fact), as they took the western approach into the Doldrums.

It was a choice made way back even before the Cape Verde Islands, and one that Ian Walker was very confident would give his boat a clear run through a notoriously unpredictable area. The Dutch team was sitting around 10nm behind the Emiratis, and both going at the same speed – 7 knots, headed at 170°, with a wind direction 60°.

Over on the other side of the fleet, Team Vestas Wind had also broken through the worst of the Intertropical Convergence Zone, and interestingly find themselves in almost identical conditions to those 170nm the other side of the pack, although skipper Chris Nicholson would admit that they’ve had a far more difficult time of it.

The advantage to the boat is that they now have a better angle for the approach to the next waypoint, Fernando de Noronha, and that could see them take miles out of the two leaders, when reaching in marginal wind strength, a higher angle to the wind will result in faster boat speed.

It’s hard going for the rest of the teams back in the cheap seats though. MAPFRE, Team Alvimedica, Team SCA and to a lesser extent Dongfeng Race Team were sailing in just one knot of wind, so unless they get some lucky cloud action, they could take most of the day just to get off Mother Nature’s naughty step.

On Alvimedica, Onboard Reporter Amory Ross writes, “so again we drift in darkness without a ripple on the water, sails aimlessly smacking against”. It’s known as ‘the Full English’, 0.00 knots of wind (three fried eggs), but it doesn’t taste quite so nice when you’re presented with a big plate of it. For the front three, attentions turn to sailing fast down to the Equator crossing. For the rest of the pack, well, they’d just like to sail.

“These Doldrums weren’t too aggressive,” said race meteorologist Gonzalo Infante this morning. Yet, the fleet will be pretty relieved to finally leave the International Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). It should officially be the case by tomorrow morning.

At this afternoon’s report, was still in the lead, average windspeed was 3-9 knots, with an average boat speed of 6 – 10 knots. Abu Dhabi and Brunel will be the first ones to exit the Doldrums, having found the narrowest passage to the west. The Dutch boat is only seven miles behind Abu Dhabi.

Team Vestas Wind are third, 80 miles away from the leader. Chris Nicholson and his guys picked the east side of the route, and will leave the Doldrums in third position.

Having chosen the middle, Dongfeng, Team Alvimedica, MAPFRE and Team SCA won’t have it so easy, they are likely to spend more time in there. But once they are out, a nice and long downwind sail to Fernando de Noronha awaits, in the southeast trade winds.

Leg 1 Position Report (as of 00:55 UTC on Oct. 23)
1. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, Ian Walker (GBR), 3841 nm Distance to Finish
2. Team Brunel, Bouwe Bekking (NED), 0.7 nm Distance to Lead
3. Team Vestas Wind, Chris Nicholson (AUS), 93.6 nm DTL
4. Dongfeng Race Team, Charles Caudrelier (FRA), 123.4 nm DTL
5. Mapfre, Iker Martinez (ESP), 145.3 nm DTL
6. Team Alvimedica, Charlie Enright (USA), 145.3 nm DTL
7. Team SCA, Sam Davies (GBR), 162.4 nm 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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