When at the mercy of fickle winds

Published on January 9th, 2018

Doldrums is that belt of converging winds and rising air encircling Earth near the Equator. The northeast of the northern hemisphere and southeast trade winds of the southern hemisphere meet there, causing calms, squalls, and thunderstorms. Pure havoc!

The Volvo Ocean Race, in their race from Australia to Hong Kong, are stuck in the Doldrums. The team on Vestas 11th Hour Racing share their experience on January 9, 2018.

Navigator Simon Fisher:
As we slowly work our way up past the Solomon Islands the wind has got steadily lighter and with each new route run, the forecast looks increasingly pessimistic as we are slowly ensnared in the Doldrums.

Progress today has been slow, 1 to 2 knots much of the time, 4 knots of boat speed now feels like we are flying. Without the rush of water past the boat all you can hear on deck is the slatting of the sails and the whirring of the fans downstairs which are our only means of staying cool.

The temperature is now getting high. The sea temperature is 33 degrees and the air temperature is now into the high 30’s during the day, dropping only to 28 at night. The sun during the day is punishing and for once everyone welcomes the darkness.

As the wind steadily eased off today I was forced to recalibrate my perception. What looked like light winds an hour previous suddenly seemed like good breeze as the ocean became increasingly glassy.

Despite the light winds however recent progress has been good. However, we are acutely aware that it can all change in an instant and ultimately, we are at the mercy of the fickle breeze. Each mile gained north could be decisive and could be the one to get us out of the doldrums first.

Onboard reporter Amory Ross:
One of the fun things about the Doldrums is that it’s never the same twice. It won’t ever give you the pleasure of knowing what you’re going to get when you go in, and it will certainly never give you any idea once you’re in of just how long it’s going to take to get out. You get what you get and you make the most of it. Randomness, luck, and extreme heat rule this part of the world…

Today we drifted. We drifted a lot and sailed very little. SiFi’s nav computer told him it would take us over 1,000 days to get to the Philippines at one point. Fortunately, that’s now down to 70 days and it’s never always such a vacant vacuum of wind – but today it looked like it could be and we all wondered just how long we might float here sweating through our days.

Patience will obviously be key, as will be monitoring the skies overnight for any sign of cloud development. Clouds bring wind and wind brings life… one cloud could make all the difference!

To see Leg 4 crew lists… click here.


Race detailsTrackerScoreboardRace routeFacebookYouTube

Leg 4 – Position Report (19:00 UTC)
1. Turn the Tide on Plastic (POR), Dee Caffari (GBR), 3285.7 nm DTF
2. Vestas 11th Hour Racing (DEN/USA), Mark Towill (USA), 4.5 nm DTL
3. Team Brunel (NED), Bouwe Bekking (NED), 5.4 nm DTL
4. Team AkzoNobel (NED), Simeon Tienpont (NED), 8.0 nm DTL
5. Dongfeng Race Team (CHN), Charles Caudrelier (FRA), 9.7 nm DTL
6. MAPFRE (ESP), Xabi Fernández (ESP), 10.6 nm DTL
7. Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag (HKG), David Witt (AUS), 30.5 nm DTL
DTF – Distance to Finish; DTL – Distance to Leader

Beginning on January 2, Leg 4 is a 5,600 nautical mile race up the east coast of Australia from Melbourne, into the Coral Sea and up north to Hong Kong. The ETA for Hong Kong will be more certain after the boats clear the Doldrums but is penciled in for January 20 to 21.

Overall Results (after 3 of 11 legs)
1. MAPFRE (ESP), Xabi Fernández (ESP), 29 points
2. Dongfeng Race Team (CHN), Charles Caudrelier (FRA), 23
3. Vestas 11th Hour Racing (DEN/USA), Charlie Enright (USA), 23
4. Team Brunel (NED), Bouwe Bekking (NED), 14
5. Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag (HKG), David Witt (AUS), 11
6. Team AkzoNobel (NED), Simeon Tienpont (NED), 9
7. Turn the Tide on Plastic (POR), Dee Caffari (GBR), 6

2017-18 Edition: Entered Teams – Skippers
Team AkzoNobel (NED), Simeon Tienpont (NED)
Dongfeng Race Team (CHN), Charles Caudrelier (FRA)
MAPFRE (ESP), Xabi Fernández (ESP)
Vestas 11th Hour Racing (DEN/USA), Charlie Enright (USA)
Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag (HKG), David Witt (AUS)
Turn the Tide on Plastic (POR), Dee Caffari (GBR)
Team Brunel (NED), Bouwe Bekking (NED)

Background: Racing the one design Volvo Ocean 65, the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race begins in Alicante, Spain on October 22 2017 with the final finish in The Hague, Netherlands on June 30 2018. In total, the 11-leg race will visit 12 cities in six continents: Alicante, Lisbon, Cape Town, Melbourne, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Auckland, Itajaí, Newport, Cardiff, Gothenburg, and The Hague. A maximum of eight teams will compete.

Source: Volvo Ocean Race

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