Dicing with the Doldrums
|Images courtesy of Expedition Navigation Systems|
|While the ORMA 60s are currently tackling the Doldrums, so yesterday morning Franck Cammas and Stève Ravussin sailed Groupama II to victory in the Transat Jacques Vabre ORMA 60ft trimaran class. This is Cammas' second win in this race, and follows a disastrous capsize in the 2005 event.
"In the transition from Spain, we lifted our foot on the throttle," confirmed Ravussin upon his arrival. She gained a small lead after the Canaries but it was at the Cape Verdes that she really moved ahead when Gitana II had to put in to replace a foil while Banque Populaire had to replace a rudder. As a result her lead grew from 50 to 300 miles.
"It was not easy to manage our lead because we do not know necessarily how hard to push," said Cammas. "Risking breakage would have been stupid. At the same time, these boats are fantastic machines that require maximum concentration. In the crossing of the Doldrums, we got stuck in a squall when the wind climbed from 10 to 35 knots. It was a little hot. The nights were dark, with no moon. We didn't know when the squalls would arrive." Routing Groupama II during the TJV was Marcel van Triest.
Just over nine hours later Gitana II claimed second place in the ORMA and they were followed by Banque Populaire in third, Pascal Bidegorry's blue and white boat finishing before moments later the front 1m of the bow of her mainhull snapped clean off. Bidegorry described what happened: "It was choppy. We were under double reefed main and genniker making 25 knots. We finished race and I said 'what a strong ship' and then I heard a big bang and saw the bow rise! He reckons the breakage occurred due to fatigue rather than from a collision.
The lead Open 60s are currently in the thick of the Doldrums belt as their speeds above indicate Ecover having average 5 knots over the last four hours while out to her east Gitana Eighty has managed 7.7 over the same period. Meanwhile the pack of chasing boats, even Groupe Bel positioned just 32 miles to the northwest of Ecover had made more than twice this.
This chart shows the positions of three of the key boats superimposed over a wind radar image (showing what is actually happening rather than the forecast) and indicates that Groupe Bel and those to the north of her have only just reeached the main Doldrums area. It also indicates that Ecover's passage through the Doldrums should be a very much shorter one than Loick Peyron's on Gitana. Given that the above holds true it looks as though Golding has around 120 miles left to go before he breaks into the southeasterly trades. However the tracks of Ecover and Gitana are very different. The latest scheds have Ecover wriggling southwest, presumably in an attempt to cover Groupe Bel while Gitana Eighty has just been sailing due south.
The exception to this is (as ever) Jean le Cam and Gildas Morvan on VM Materiaux who have once again gybed west and this should see them getting into the worst of the Doldrums a little later than the others.
There is now a significant distance - 130 miles - between the leaders and Generali and Roxy who are hightailing it south towards the Doldrums.
Bruno Dubois reports from onboard Ecover :
"We are good at the moment. We still have some good wind and we look good overall. I think we will start to hit the Doldrums tonight and tomorrow, but at the moment the wind looks OK to get through, but we have to wait and see. At the moment it is blue skies, sunny and just a couple of clouds in the sky. We can't complain about much. The NE'ly winds are like the trade winds at 15-18 knots which is just fine. The other boats are all coming down this way which is fine for us. If we could get a little bit more to the west we would be more happy. It is fine so far."
Giovanni Soldini and Pietro d'Ali aboard their Telecom Italia continue an admirable job and over the last 24 hours have added a further 7 miles to their lead (now 56 miles) as the fleet make good progress south, following much the same track, close to the African coast as the Open 60s did last week.
Of the lead group the Italians consistently remain one of the most westerly boats, albeit with Chocolats Monbana, AST Group and 40 Degrees due north of them. However the main competition appears to be coming from Dominique Vittet and Thierry Chabagny on ATAO Audio Systems presently 87 miles nearer the African coast than they are.
With the high pressure to their west dissipating over the rest of today, the band of northeasterly trade winds is set to extend west and is backing slightly further to the north. This should allow the fleet to gybe west towards the Cape Verdes, at present 170 miles southwest of Telecom Italia's current position. From here the trades look set to take the boats all the way to the Doldrums.
Report from Peter Harding's 40 Degrees :
40 Degrees is in 5th place this morning at the 0700 position report. While Atao (4th place) has stayed east, 40 Degrees has taken a more westerly option, and is now just northwest of the 2nd and 3rd placed boats. Telecom Italia continues to lead. The first Class 40s will pass through the Cape Verde Islands tonight, just over half way between the start line and finish line of this race.
Peter reported yesterday, ‘It’s 26 degrees outside, clear blue skies, and we are headed south again towards Bahia. Last night we had a frustrating night of very light airs and a couple of holes to weave our way through, and spent some time headed southwest. We have not changed sails for a couple of days now, and hope not to do so before the Doldrums. It seems that the leading pack have once again split, with not many miles separating 2nd to 5th placed boats. Who will be right and who will be wrong?
The phosphorescence was extraordinarily bright last night – it seemed like someone had placed a fluorescent light under the boat, that lit up the stern and left two very bright rooster tails following in our wake. We have now found a couple of CDs hidden in unlikely places, so now have the privilege of racing along to the sounds of the lies of James Blunt, Cold Play and Depeche Mode.’
Nick Bubb reports from Novedia Set Environnement
After much debate we choose to gybe back out east...again last night in search of stronger winds. Having spent yesterday crawling round the internet and looking through a lot of weather data, we decided that there was a 'significant' chance of stronger breeze off the Nouadhibou headland in Mauritania - good geography lesson!
Anyway. Long story short, excellent 20 knots from NNE has helped us take over 20 miles from Giovanni in the last two position updates. More importantly, we are now only 29 miles from 6th and still flying along. We expect to gybe back this morning and begin the 300 mile leg down to the Eastern side of the Cape Verde's.
Got to go, fingers crossed all round!
Listen to audio with Nick Bubb here....