Who will be last?

It's slow going for the Volvo Ocean Race fleet

Friday March 15th 2002, Author: Peter Bentley, Location: Transoceanic
Doldrums Already, Asks djuice's Knut Frostad

Right now we are slowly moving along in four knots of wind and it feels great! No, I haven't lost the plot! Doing five knots in the right direction, as we are doing now, is actually a luxury these days. Early this morning we where really happy, grinding Amer Sports One all the way back, then passing them, but then the breeze died completely. We sat and waited until SEB and Amer Too showed up on the horizon. They both passed us, until we got the wind. Then we passed the girls again, and we bailed out completely from the inside position we had with Amer Sports One. So far that's been good. The option to go close to the shore on the corner is only good if there is some sea breeze there. So far we can't see any on the satellite pictures. Next sked will tell us. Anyway we have gone offshore, hoping that we will have a little more and a little steadier wind. SEB and the girls are with us. Jonas [Wackenhuth] is happy to have his girlfriend, Anna [Drougge] closer than in many days. However, I personally like to see them further behind.

So what has happened in the fleet, and why are we split in two groups? Early on in the leg, we sailed very well strategically, but couldn't match the reaching speed of Assa Abloy, Tyco ad illbruck, and on day three we had to let them go. It is horribly frustrating for the crew and myself to realise that we are slow in certain angles, and whatever we do, it doesn't help. We were completely depending on the others making strategic mistakes, which some of them did in the beginning. However, this fleet is just too good, and they all bail out quickly when they realise they are on the wrong place.

After this the weather started playing the fleet some tricks. From the south a high-pressure ridge extended and started slowly catching up with the fleet from behind, The top three as well as News Corp, managed to just escape, and the rest of us got caught. After we slowed down we just got caught even more as the ridge moved north. And since then we have been in very light conditions with lots of rainsqualls giving us some wind and some serious parking lots with absolutely vacuum. Some of them you can avoid, by tracking them on the radar and make sure you get on the front, leeward side. However, sometimes they just appear and start building at the wrong place. If you then don't have enough boat speed to escape, you can get heavily trapped. We did it three times over the last 48 hours. After the second park up, I thought someone had done something very bad onboard as it appeared it was only happening to us. Confessing the most horrible things you have done onboard, with both hands on deck (if you lie then, you jinx the boat forever), is the best way to get one extra knot of wind speed. Obviously we don't want to use all the confession right away, as it could be very little wind closer to the equator. However, I am starting to realise that this crew has a history I never dream of, so we probably have enough to cross the doldrums several times. Later on I see other boats being caught too, so it's obviously nothing wrong with us, only.

The consequences are that the fleet gets packed together, very close. It's difficult to escape as you run out of wind very soon after you get a squall. And when you run out, then the others behind will catch up.

And we still haven't got to the doldrums! Right now the doldrums are growing. Crossing them at the right place and getting to the northeast trades first can now make a huge impact on the scoreboard as the fleet is so close together. We certainly have good speed in the very light stuff. We have really focused on that in our sail inventor for the leg, and it seems to work all right. We managed to escape from being together with Amer Sports One this morning, crossing behind the girls and SEB, and then coming back to them. Sometimes we have been 90 degrees off course to find the wind. If you can find one or two more knots it can double your speed, and finding the wind first is now what this is all about.

I pray that the bad luck we had being eaten by the ridge from behind will turn around now. It's certainly not over, and as long as we keep eating our salt tablets and drinking and drinking and drinking all day long, we will get them back.

All the best from Knut and crew on djuice, now just east of Recife on Brazil's north east coast.

Page three.... SEB's Gareth Cooke tells of a sticky mess
Page four.... Bouwe Bekking reports from Amer Spots One

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