Out of the Doldrums

Portimão Global Ocean Race leaders back up to speed

Wednesday May 6th 2009, Author: Ollie Dewar, Location: United Kingdom
As the Portimão Global Ocean Race fleet leaders climbed through 01°N of the Equator and hit the 03°N barrier the speeds began to rise with double-handed leader Beluga Racer and second place Desafio Cabo de Hornos producing almost identical averages of between seven to nine knots while solo sailor Michel Kleinjans delivered slightly lower speeds on Open 40 Roaring Forty furthest west in the trio of boats in a weaker band of the north-easterly breeze flowing across the entire North Atlantic from Europe. Meanwhile, the third place Class 40, Team Mowgli, crossed the Equator at midday GMT yesterday (05/05) and remains temporarily stalled in the Doldrums.

In the latest 0620 GMT position poll today (05/06), overall fleet leaders Boris Herrmann and Felix Oehme on board Beluga Racer are 540 miles off the coast of Brazil holding a 66 mile lead over Felipe Cubillos and José Muñoz on Desafio Cabo de Hornos with solo sailor Michel Kleinjans and Roaring Forty 76 miles due south of the German race leaders. With the front runners clear of the Doldrums, weather prediction data is becoming more dependable and the leading three boats are in approximately 11-13 knots of north-easterly breeze with the Chilean duo to windward averaging 9.7 knots - one knot faster than Herrmann and Oehme on Beluga Racer - with Michel Kleinjans and Roaring Forty furthest west to leeward delivering 7.8 knots. Furthest south, Jeremy Salvesen and David Thomson are still gripped by the Doldrums on board Team Mowgli 80 miles north of the Equator averaging just under six knots.

For the British duo of Salvesen and Thomson on Team Mowgli, their current separation from the fleet began last Friday as they climbed around the easternmost point of Brazil to the scoring gate off Recife. Since then, the separation has increased from 119 miles to 318 miles as the fleet enter the Northern Hemisphere. “The Southern Hemisphere appears to be remarkably reluctant to let us go,” reported Salvesen shortly before crossing the Equator yesterday. “We have spent another couple of days fighting fickle winds and unhelpful currents,” he continued. “The winds have almost always been entirely the opposite from those shown on our weather forecast files.”

Salvesen and Thomson encountered the Brazil Current in Leg 3 which slowed progress dramatically and the pair are highly aware of any benefit are setback currents may cause. “Additionally, we should have the assistance of the Guiana Current running at up to two knots in a north-westerly direction,” states the British skipper. “It is in fact running north-easterly at a rate of about one and a half knots meaning every time we pointed to where we actually wanted to go, our speed over the ground has been severely hampered.”

However, the duo are in characteristically high-spirits: “I have to tell you that the score now stands at two-nil to the flying fish!” explains Salvesen mysteriously. “On Sunday night, David was on the helm when I heard a yelp and considerable cursing as I lay in my bunk. I had guessed what had happened but when I came on watch a couple of hours later the evidence was plain to see - a large quantity of fish scales all over David's shoulder and chin! This one wasn't as large as the fish that got him on the first leg, but its aim was spot on!”

In addition to the ravages of Atlantic attack-fish, conditions on Team Mowgli have become increasingly basic. “On Sunday it rained all day long and although Monday was largely better, there are still squall clouds around to deliver a drenching,” recalls Salvesen. “Most of our clothes are wet through and we are both reduced to running around in our underpants just getting wet anyway and hanging our clothes out to dry as soon as the rain stops.” Maintaining any workable drying routine has been impossible. “Not as easy as it sounds,” he adds. “It has taken four days for David to manage to get his shorts dry as new squalls overtake us and defeat his efforts….”

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