Visit Pensacola

The Ocean Race lines up for doldrums

Published on January 28th, 2023

(January 28, 2023; Day 4) – Stakes are high as The Ocean Race fleet begins to settle into position for crossing the equator and passing through the doldrums (officially the Intertropical Convergence Zone or ITCZ).

From Wikipedia: “The Intertropical Convergence Zone, known by sailors as the doldrums because of its monotonous windless weather, is the area where the northeast and the southeast trade winds converge. It encircles Earth near the thermal equator though its specific position varies seasonally…”

As one can imagine, ‘monotonous, windless weather’ isn’t a good place for a yacht race. The teams will be looking to cross through as quickly as possible and get into the southeast trade winds. But this is easier said than done.

At the moment, a crossing further to the west would appear to be advantageous as the band of light conditions is slightly narrower.

But it’s a balance. Cape Town is still to the southeast, so every mile sailed directly west only adds to the miles eventually sailed towards the finish line. Determining when to make the push south and into the doldrums is the decision being taken right now.

The line-up appears to be GUYOT environnement – Team Europe attempting to cut the corner over 100 nautical miles to the east of Biotherm, who is just 20 miles east of 11th Hour Racing Team and Team Holcim-PRB. Taking a flyer out to the west, behind the fleet, is Team Malizia, who will hope that the others stall and they can gain back the miles they’ve invested in their choice.

“This race isn’t going to be won here, it’s going to be won or lost in the doldrums,” said 11th Hour Racing Team skipper Charlie Enright. “[Our plan is to] go in there close (to the others), and see what happens. Eventually everyone will end up on port and head south at the point they want to cross the doldrums. Once you are in the doldrums, it’s anyone’s game.”

Currently, the advantage position on the tracker is potentially at its least accurate, as the tracker can’t account for an undetermined gain that may (or may not) be realized by sailing further west. Keep that in mind until the fleet emerges back into the tradewinds on January 29-30.

One of the other differences to appear since the start is the speeds and angles the boats can sail according to sail selection. Teams are allowed eight sails on board and the choice appears to have been on whether to carry the A2 headsail. Amory Ross explains:

“There are two camps in the fleet out here: those with A2s and those without. A2s are the big white spinnaker-y things. It’s clear Holcim-PRB and Malizia chose not to bring theirs in favor of another sail. Their black A3s require higher, hotter angles to get up to speed.

“While ourselves and Biotherm have managed to stay relatively low and in the same stretch of ocean, we’ve lost touch (at times) with Holcim, spearing off to the northwest and out of AIS range. You can see the same difference in angles between Malizia and GUYOT, who with their A2 has been much lower all the time and they’ve done well to shave the miles and sail through the back of the fleet.”

Holcim-PRB skipper Kevin Escoffier acknowledges they’re feeling some pain.

“The boats in front of us have been better it seems, but it’s also about the sail choice,” he explains. “We decided not to take a sail that would have been useful now. We are paying a bit since the start for this choice. But we are doing our best not to lose too much and hopefully in the south Atlantic we will gain with the sail we have and they don’t have. It’s part of the game.”

More from Amory Ross on 11th Hour Race Team:

The tradewinds are back! Though a far cry from the old days where downwind in 20 knots you’d be basking in the tropical sun, warm water and flying fish sweeping down the deck, now we’re a bit cooped up in the sweat box staring longingly through the window… But it has been a fun 24 hours of relatively comfortable high speed sailing! We know too though that it will soon come to an end.

In essence the first of this Leg’s three chapters is nearly finished. Given the complex forecast, the biggest risk in approaching this doldrums crossing was not being west enough, and we and Holcim are the westernmost boats with the frontrunners pointed south. The farther west you go the longer you have wind and the narrower the doldrums are, so the two of us are well set up in that regard, with Biotherm only 20nm to our east. We’ve done everything we can to get here in touch with the leader and at a longitude we think will give us an optimal path through.

The leg’s second chapter begins when these 20 knots first taper and we feel the effects of the ITCZ transition, or inter tropical convergence zone. The first boat in isn’t necessarily the first out, and your success or failure is somewhat dependent on the lane you choose, but also a bit of luck! The three of us are in a relatively tight grouping but then again sometimes one cloud, one squall makes all the difference. Race winning breakaways, unintentional splits and fleet inversions are always a possibility.

With that said, we’ve maintained this leg would be decided in the doldrums and it’s not untrue. The first boat to finish Chapter 2 and escape the ITCZ, first to feel the SE trades, can turn the page to Chapter 3, a long fetch to Cape Town. Even as I write, our 20kts is now 16. Chapter 2 and the next week of up and downs is near…

Leg Two Rankings at 1300 UTC
1. Biotherm, distance to finish, 4207.1 miles
2. Team Holcim-PRB, distance to leader, 6.9 miles
3. 11th Hour Racing Team, distance to leader, 8.0 miles
4. GUYOT environnement – Team Europe, distance to leader, 8.2 miles
5. Team Malizia, distance to leader, 225.5 miles

With race management predicting a 14-15-day passage time for Leg 2, the leading boats are expected to arrive in Cape Town on or around February 8 or 9.

Race detailsRouteTrackerTeamsContent from the boatsYouTube


Charlie ENRIGHT (USA) Skipper
Amory ROSS (USA) – OBR

Paul MEILHAT (FRA) – Skipper

Kevin ESCOFFIER (FRA) – Skipper

Robert STANJEK (GER) – skipper
Sébastien SIMON (FRA)
Anne-Claire LE BERRE (FRA)

Will HARRIS (GBR) – skipper
Rosalin KUIPER (NED)
Nicolas LUNVEN (FRA)
Antoine AURIOL (FRA) – OBR

Leg One Results

1. Team Holcim-PRB, winner leg one, finished – 5d 11h 01m 59s
2. 11th Hour Racing Team, finished – 5d 13h 50m 45s
3. Team Malizia, finished – 5d 16h 35m 21s
4. Biotherm, finished – 6d 8h 47m
5. GUYOT environnement-Team Europe, finished – 6d 12h 20m 37s

1. WindWhisper Racing, finished – 5d 16h 35m 21s
2. Team JAJO, finished – 6d 4h 52m 52s
3. Austrian Ocean Racing-Team Genova, finished – 6d 19h 13m 54s
4. Ambersail 2, finished – 6d 21h 49m 04s
5. Viva Mexico, finished – 8d 13h 50m 25s
6. Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team – Retired from leg

IMOCA: Boat, Design, Skipper, Launch date
• Guyot Environnement – Team Europe (VPLP Verdier); Benjamin Dutreux (FRA)/Robert Stanjek (GER); September 1, 2015
• 11th Hour Racing Team (Guillaume Verdier); Charlie Enright (USA); August 24, 2021
• Holcim-PRB (Guillaume Verdier); Kevin Escoffier (FRA); May 8, 2022
• Team Malizia (VPLP); Boris Herrmann (GER); July 19, 2022
• Biotherm (Guillaume Verdier); Paul Meilhat (FRA); August 31 2022

The Ocean Race 2022-23 Race Schedule:
Alicante, Spain – Leg 1 start: January 15, 2023
Cabo Verde – ETA: January 22; Leg 2 start: January 25
Cape Town, South Africa – ETA: February 9; Leg 3 start: February 26 or 27 (TBC)
Itajaí, Brazil – ETA: April 1; Leg 4 start: April 23
Newport, RI, USA – ETA: May 10; Leg 5 start: May 21
Aarhus, Denmark – ETA: May 30; Leg 6 start: June 8
Kiel, Germany (Fly-By) – June 9
The Hague, The Netherlands – ETA: June 11; Leg 7 start: June 15
Genova, Italy – The Grand Finale – ETA: June 25, 2023; Final In-Port Race: July 1, 2023

The Ocean Race (formerly Volvo Ocean Race and Whitbread Round the World Race) was initially to be raced in two classes of boats: the high-performance, foiling, IMOCA 60 class and the one-design VO65 class which has been used for the last two editions of the race.

However, only the IMOCAs will be racing round the world while the VO65s will race in The Ocean Race VO65 Sprint which competes in Legs 1, 6, and 7 of The Ocean Race course.

Additionally, The Ocean Race also features the In-Port Series with races at seven of the course’s stopover cities around the world which allow local fans to get up close and personal to the teams as they battle it out around a short inshore course.

Although in-port races do not count towards a team’s overall points score, they do play an important part in the overall rankings as the In-Port Race Series standings are used to break any points ties that occur during the race around the world.

The 14th edition of The Ocean Race was originally planned for 2021-22 but was postponed one year due to the pandemic, with the first leg starting on January 15, 2023.

Source: The Ocean Race

comment banner

Tags: , ,

Back to Top ↑

Get Your Sailing News Fix!

Your download by email.

  • Hidden
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

We’ll keep your information safe.