Dodging the squalls

We speak to a very very tired Emma Richards mid-way through crossing the Doldrums
On the Around Alone website, moving slowly down the map are four innocent looking dots representing the competition at the front of the Open 60 fleet. The story this picture doesn't tell you is the living hell the competitors have been going through. It has been two weeks now since the boats left the Devonshire port of Brixham on leg two of the singlehanded round the world race down the length of the Atlantic to Cape Town. In this time they experienced a gale 24 hours out, then the tailend of a hurricane, bringing with it storm force winds that peaked at more than 70 knots, as they passed the Portugese coast. While the majority of the fleet put into port to weather the storm, the brave four at the top of the fleet pressed on and are now some 1,500 miles ahead of the second group. Now group A are in the throws of the Doldrums (see above). With their alternating squalls and calms, the Doldrums are hard work if you are racing even with a full crew. In the calms the navigator is constantly glued to the radar looking for oncoming rain squalls and then monitoring their size and direction. On deck the sails flog as the crew attempt to keep some way on whilst maintaining a visual watch ready to reduce sail should a squall strike bringing with it a lot of wind. One of the delights of this is that it is hard to predict what each squall will bring - lots of wind, no wind, rain, no rain. It's a lottery. It is easy to understand how in days of old crossing this stretch of water a few clicks north of the Equator could cause sailors to starve to death or go insane. While then