Rolling the dice in the Doldrums

Overnight position changes sweep the Transat Jacques fleets as going west pays big time

Friday November 14th 2003, Author: James Boyd/Mary Ambler, Location: Transoceanic
Positions at 0900

Pos Boat DTF DTL vmg Lat Long spd crs spd crs spd crs spd dist
inst 1hr av 4hr av over 24 hrs
Open 60s
1 VIRBAC 1204.1 0.0 10.1 3 26.24' N 27 10.72' W 10.0 188 11.7 184 11.0 182 8.3 198.9
2 ECOVER 1299.3 95.2 10.9 5 29.28' N 27 34.96' W 10.4 197 10.9 207 10.6 207 11.6 279.3
3 SILL 1310.7 106.6 9.4 5 18.68' N 26 51.72' W 11.0 179 10.3 186 9.9 193 9.9 237.4
4 PRB 1366.1 162.0 11.4 6 32.04' N 27 11.72' W 11.0 190 11.8 193 11.4 190 11.5 276.0
5 TEAM COWES 1366.3 162.2 11.6 7 25.92' N 29 18.48' W 13.0 237 11.7 190 12.4 194 13.4 320.8
6 VMI 1393.3 189.2 12.1 6 46.64' N 26 40.32' W 12.0 196 12.4 195 11.7 192 12.1 290.5
7 CARREFOUR PREVENTION 1505.4 301.3 11.6 8 44.88' N 26 24.72' W 11.0 181 12.3 187 11.7 189 12.1 289.6
8 ARCELOR-DUNKERQUE 1698.2 494.1 9.6 10 14.88' N 22 31.08' W 9.2 205 9.6 208 10.0 197 10.4 249.0
9 GARNIER 1794.9 590.8 13.5 14 03.84' N 26 35.40' W 14.0 186 13.8 189 13.5 182 12.0 288.8
10 LOIRE ATLANTIQUE 1927.4 723.3 10.7 14 36.32' N 22 12.32' W 12.2 171 12.9 174 12.7 208 11.2 268.0
11 60ème SUD 2166.1 962.0 9.1 20 15.84' N 25 31.76' W 9.0 192 9.2 195 10.2 192 9.0 215.4
12 ADECCO 2193.9 989.8 7.0 18 55.40' N 20 56.56' W 7.3 197 7.3 193 7.9 192 8.2 197.3
13 TIR GROUPE 2327.8 1123.7 9.6 20 14.88' N 18 35.56' W 9.3 220 10.1 228 10.5 219 8.9 212.8
60ft tris
1 GROUPAMA 985.1 0 17.7 0 43.68' N 29 32.84' W 19 209 17.8 214 14.2 209 11.9 285.6
2 BELGACOM 1121.2 136.1 22.7 02 22.26' N 27 54.12' W 22.7 212 22.7 212 17 215 11.3 271.7
3 SERGIO TACCHINI 1163.1 178 15.3 2 14.40' N 26 37.72' W 16.1 199 16.8 192 17.6 201 9.9 238.3
4 GEANT 1176.5 191.4 15 2 59.24' N 26 00.08' W 15 185 15.6 201 14.4 199 9.1 218.5
5 BISCUITS LA TRINITAINE 1183.1 198 17.4 3 18.24' N 27 38.60' W 14.4 198 17.7 200 17.3 204 11.7 281.2
6 SOPRA GROUP 1198.8 213.7 13.3 4 08.64' N 28 38.56' W 11 196 13.3 204 12.8 204 15.3 366.1
7 GITANA 1246.7 261.6 11.8 04 28.00' N 27 08.00' W 15 227 11.8 214 9.6 198 14.8 355.5
8 SODEBO 1279.8 294.7 15.8 4 18.40' N 26 11.32' W 19.2 201 16.1 202 9 203 10.2 244.9
9 BONDUELLE 1284.2 299.1 17.2 5 53.04' N 28 04.12' W 23.4 196 17.7 192 18.4 199 17 407.9
10 BANQUE POPULAIRE 1363.7 378.6 16.8 4 40.28' N 24 18.64' W 18 199 17.6 200 15.1 200 9.9 238.1
11 FONCIA 1371.6 386.4 11.3 7 10.32' N 28 22.04' W 14 206 12.5 176 14.7 183 16.8 403
12 BAYER CROPSCIENCE 1539.4 554.3 18.4 9 58.64' N 27 31.40' W 19.3 185 19.1 187 19 201 20.6 493.2
13 BANQUE COVEFI 1625.7 640.6 18.7 9 48.64' N 24 06.60' W 21.1 199 19.4 195 17.1 189 18 432.8
50ft multi
1 MOLLYMAWK 2631.3 0 6.2 25 12.48' N 16 56.68' W 7 219 6.3 221 7 220 8.3 199.1
Open 50s
1 HELLOMOTO 1994 0 7.8 16 26.60' N 23 27.32' W 10 249 9.9 243 9.1 205 10.4 248.9
2 STORAGETEK 2219.7 225.7 3.9 20 42.64' N 24 02.84' W 9.8 267 9.6 267 9.3 260 9.2 221
3 DEFI VENDEEN 2245.2 251.3 11.9 20 12.96' N 21 39.12' W 21.3 195 12.2 193 12.4 195 11.2 269.1

The chart above showing the leading Open 60 positions over the last 24 hours indicates that far from all the boat tackling the Doldrums at the same longitude in a procession so some of the boats have been trying different tactics. In particular Team Cowes and Ecover have headed further west - Team Cowes especially is now some 160 miles to the WNW of VMI which she has overtaken to regain fifth place over the course of the last day and is now leading by 27 miles.

This tactic has also worked well for Ecover and crew Mike Golding and Brian Thompon who have clawed their way back from 45 miles behind yesterday to second place ahead of Sill today. They are now just over 10 miles ahead in terms of distance to finish but more than 40 miles to the west than Sill. While Ecover has been making better progress over the last 24 hours, Sill's easterly position could prove to be tactically the better coming out of the Doldrums.

This morning Brian Thompson still spoke with a cautious tone about their change in fortune: “We’ve had a few squalls but nothing too bad. We have passed Sill, so it has to have been a good night then! We did have more wind where we were, maybe Sill were unlucky, it is still a lottery out here as Virbac has slowed right up ahead. It looks very light in front and PRB and Team Cowes are closing in behind. In our position we can at least see what weather Virbac is getting and then see if we need to go left or right to sail around any tricky weather. In the big picture, there’s an opening and closing of gates which happens and we have had the gate opened but the next 24hrs is critical to get through and keep up the boat speed. We could be through in a day or get stuck and have another 48 hours of this to endure.”

Thompson went on to describe night sailing in the tropics: “Last night Mike and I took turns to drive while the other one slept and if we saw a cloud approaching we’d wake the other one up to come up on deck. The clouds have killed the wind a bit really, we’ve had a few sprinkles of rain, nothing dramatic though. That’s good for us as we don’t have such a big sail wardrobe anymore. We need to keep a real eye out, though, until daylight, as we have no radar working and the worst time is the first half of the night up to midnight when there is no moon and you can’t spot the squalls. The second half, the moon is up, which means you can see the cloud line better. We did see Biscuits La Trinitaine sail past us, which was surreal!”

On board Sill Roland Jourdain was less than enthusiastic. “I’ve only just woken up so what more can I say - but it’s not good news! Is it his boat speed, the wind, or both, I don’t know but there’s been more wind to the west. We got caught under a cloud yesterday afternoon and Mike was directly behind us but he obviously moved over to the west by a handful of miles and now we wake up to find him 35m over to the west and ahead. We’re going a long nicely still, in 13 knots of breeze, and we’re expecting it to go lighter today, look at Virbac ahead. Most annoying, not a good breakfast…”

Leading the mono fleet is as ever Virbac but their lead has been substantially reduced from 143 miles yesterday to 95 today. This morning skipper Jean-Pierre Dick was barely able to talk for longer than a couple of minutes as he and Nicolas Abiven were battling with yet another imminent squall heading their way after a stressful and sleepless night on the deck: “This is what we feared would happen - and it has. We have had violent squalls, tons of rain and spent all night on deck reefing and throwing out reefs. I’m worried about being over canvassed all the time. We’ve got another 60m before we get out of this, perhaps this evening. We haven’t felt any easterly breeze yet. We’re completely stuck in the Doldrums now!”

At the 0300GMT report they were only making 4.7 knots boat speed, but at 0500GMT this had lifted to 8 knots and at 0900 they are up to 10 knots. However they have seen their lead nearly halved in the last two days.

In the 60ft trimaran fleet similar reshufflings are going on now that the front runners are out of the Doldrums. Leaders Franck Cammas and Franck Proffit on board Groupama will shortly be moving into the southern hemisphere.

The early hours of this morning have seen some strange goings-on in the positions with Marc Guillemot and French Olympic Tornado representative Yann Guichard on board Biscuits la Trinitaine briefly moving up to third place by taking a westerly track similar to Team Cowes. Géant (Desjoyeaux/Jan) has been particularly suffering over the last 24 hours through a bad tactical choice through the Doldrums and have averaged 1-2 knots less boat speed than her rivals.

Further west still than Biscuits are the old timers Philippe Monnet and Laurent Bourgnon on board the Lombard-designed Sopra Group (Monnet/L. Bourgnon). Bonduelle (Le Cam/De Pavant) and Foncia (Gautier/MacArthur), in 9th and 11th positions respectively are also doing well to the west compared to Sodebo (Coville/Vincent) and Banque Populaire (Roucayrol/Bidegorry) to the east who hit the traffic lights and slowed to around 5 knots boat speed.

Read the latest reports from the boats on page two...



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