Doldrums compression

Beluga Racer watch their lead dwindle in the Portimão Global Ocean Race

Thursday October 23rd 2008, Author: Brian Hancock, Location: United Kingdom
It’s oh so painful aboard Beluga Racer. The lead boat in the Portimão Global Ocean Race as co-skippers Boris Herrmann and Felix Oehme watch their hard earned lead slowly get whittled away by the rest of the fleet. For the first time in almost a week the gap between Beluga Racer and second place boat Desafio Cabo de Hornos is under 100 miles. To make matters worse the leading solo sailor, Michel Kleinjans aboard Roaring Forty is just 12 miles astern of Desafio Cabo de Hornos on a distance-to-go basis and closing faster than the Chilean boat. Granted it was all to be expected as Beluga Racer entered the doldrum belt, but it still hurts nonetheless.

Aboard Desafio Cabo de Hornos skipper Felipe Cubillos is taking things in stride. They are well into the doldrums and finding the weather challenging. “This morning it occurred to me that there were two winds blowing in our region,” he wrote. “One wind was being generated by clouds to the west and the other by clouds to the east. We were between them with a light northerly blowing which was not that good for us as we were trying to go south.”

The doldrums are essentially a windless zone created when the large air masses of the southern and northern hemisphere intersect causing a sudden vertical ascent of warm, moist air that sucks the breeze right out of the area. What’s left are pockets of wind and rain that swirl into violent squalls tracking randomly across the undulating, glassy sea. The trick is to find a squall moving in your direction and hitch a ride, but that’s easier said than done.

Just a degree and a half to the north of Desafio Cabo de Hornos, Team Mowgli are still in fresh winds and closing the gap on the red hot Chile peppers. Jeremy Salvesen and Dave Thomson are enjoying their ride and making the most of the conditions knowing full well what the wind gods have in store for them. “Well not a bad day at the office,” Jeremy wrote. “We had better wind than expected and we are still able to maintain a course of west of 200 degrees which is about where we want to be. Sometime in the next 24 hours we will turn and head pretty much due south in order to try and cross the ITCZ (doldrums) as quickly as possible - but being west right now looks as if it is the favourable position. Wind strength has been much better than expected and finally we are managing to knock some miles off the Germans and Chileans whilst maintaining our lead over the South Africans on their Banana Boat!”

At the 21:20UTC poll the fastest boat in the fleet was Hayai skippered by Nico Budel. The fleet will compress over the next 48-hours, but despite their losses Boris and Felix will be first into the new wind on the south side of the doldrums and they will once again stretch out on the fleet. They have sailed a steady course without wavering and it will serve them well when the new wind kicks in.

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