The Race - 0830 - 10/1/00

Looks like the leaders could have cleared the Doldrums - story by Sean McNeill/QuokkaSailing.com

Wednesday January 10th 2001, Author: Sean McNeill, Location: United Kingdom
Club Med and Team Adventure spent yesterday watching their speeds rise and fall with every puff of wind, but the Kiwi/Franco-led Club Med still holds the advantage with the Southern Hemisphere looming ahead.

As the day wound down for competitors in The Race, the two leaders are seeing their boatspeeds climb again, indicating they could be clear of the Doldrums.

The 2030 GMT (9/1/01) position reports show Club Med leading Team Adventure by 24.4 miles. In the hour prior to polling, Club Med averaged 18.3 knots to Team Adventure's 16.4 knots.

Club Med, at 1°51.76'N, could be clear of the windless zone around the equator, although there's likely some more light air ahead before they hit the south-easterly trade winds and the boatspeed soars again. To navigator Mike Quilter's chagrin, however, Club Med is crossing the Doldrums around 23°W. He preferred to cross at 28°W, but that would have been too costly in terms of distance lost to competitors.

"We have never completely stopped; we've been doing five to seven knots for most of the time, but that isn't much for these boats," said Club Med skipper Grant Dalton earlier today. "The other guys (Team Adventure and Innovation Explorer) haven't stopped yet."

Nevertheless, Club Med had extended slightly on Team Adventure at the 2030 report, gaining 6 miles from the 1700 GMT report. Both boats continued to favour the west as they work south, hoping to cut through a narrower band of the Doldrums.

The race is on to be the first through the Doldrums and into the south-easterly trade winds. Club Med controls its fate in this regard, as it is leading. But the Doldrums are reported to be narrower farther west, which could help slingshot Loïck Peyron's Innovation Explorer into the lead.

At the 2030 report Club Med was at 023° W and Team Adventure at 023°42'W; Innovation Explorer was at 027°40'W. Innovation Explorer was heading west/south-west at 236°, but it had averaged just 2.5 knots in the hour prior to polling. Innovation Explorer trailed Club Med by 217.2 miles.

"It's crazy; we have been driving the boat hard, with every stitch of sail on in 30 knots of wind! And in complete safety, the boat sailing flat," said Julian Cressant from aboard Innovation Explorer. "We're pleased to be back in the race, even if we're not very clear about what's to come. The water is 27°C. You can feel the equator."

Dalton, competing in his sixth race around the world, isn't about to start pulling out what's left of his hair over the equatorial crossing. There are still 20,000 miles of racing on the horizon.

"I'm pretty philosophical about this," said the Kiwi skipper. "If they get ahead, we'll just have to pass them again. It's a yacht race, after all, and we are in good shape. We won't really be able to assess who has done best with this until the first boat crosses the equator."

Standings (at 2300 GMT, 9/1/01)

1. Club Med
2. Team Adventure, +23 nm
3. Innovation Explorer, +286 nm
4. PlayStation, +509 nm
5. Warta Polpharma, +881 nm
6. Team Legato, +2018

First published on QuokkaSailing.com, republished with permission.

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