Monday, November 14, 2011

Down and Dirty in The Doldrums - Volvo Ocean Race Update

There was only one thing on the minds of the Volvo Ocean Race fleet this morning – the dreaded Doldrums.
Photo: Amory Ross/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race
As the four Volvo Open 70s charged south through the north-easterly trade winds at speeds of 16-20 knots it was PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG (Ken Read/USA) who clung on to a narrow lead of 2.7 nautical miles over arch-rivals Team Telefónica (Iker Martínez/ESP) at the 1000 UTC position update.
Xabi Fernandez Photo: Diego Fructuoso/Team Telefonica/Volvo Ocean Race
After dodging the deadly wind shadow of the Cape Verde Islands, Groupama sailing team (Franck Cammas/FRA) were also finally hitting speeds in the late teens, trying to pull back the 323nm they trail by. Third-placed CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson/AUS) slipped in the rankings to 143nm behind the leading pair, around 60nm to the east of PUMA’s track.
Franck Cammas Photo:Yanni Roui/Groupama Sailing Team/Volvo Ocean Race
All of the crews were relishing in the fast beam-reaching conditions – but in just over 12 hours it could be an entirely different story as the first boats enter the Doldrums, a notorious low pressure system on the north side of the equator at this time of year, characterised by light winds but notorious for sudden squalls.
Photo: Amory Ross/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race
The Volvo Ocean Race’s meteorology expert Gonzalo Infante said the first boats would be hitting the Doldrums around 0000 UTC on Tuesday, resulting in a compression of the fleet.
Photo: Amory Ross/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race
“Once the first boats hit the Doldrums the fleet will compress as the leaders slow down in the light winds,” he said. “Depending on where the boats cross the Doldrums it could take them around 24 hours to pass through, but once out they will be into the south-east trades fast reaching into Fernando de Noronha. The elastic band effect will be reversed and the distances between the boats will expand again.”
Tony Mutter Photo: Amory Ross/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race
Lining up the best lane to cross the Doldrums will prove key in the race to the other side. Infante said PUMA and Telefónica had the best positioning to pass through the Doldrums – with Groupama facing the widest section out to the east.
Kelvin Harrap Photo: Amory Ross/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race
“Groupama did the right thing taking the safe option around the Cape Verde Islands, avoiding the wind shadow south of the islands, but the real problem for them is they now have no real options for crossing the Doldrums,” he added. “They have no choice but to cross in the east where the Doldrums are wider. The Doldrums are dynamic and in 24 hours can have totally changed – but the odds of it paying off for Groupama are slim.”

The first boats are expected to round Fernando de Noronha, the Leg 1 turning mark, on Wednesday. More than 4,000nm still lie ahead of the fleet in the sprint to Cape Town, South Africa.

Leg 1
Report: 14/11/2011 10:02:29 UTC
-ADORRetired from Leg 1
-SNYARetired from Leg 1
Volvo Ocean Race Media

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