Stops and full stops
While Jean-Pierre Dick and Loïck Peyron are contemplating passing into the southern hemisphere, due to cross the Equator some time Wednesday morning, having escaped relatively lightly from the Doldrums on Virbac-Paprec 3, Jean Le Cam and Bruno Garcia were coming to terms with their official retirement from the Barcelona World Race.
The duo, who lost their mast on Sunday night, arrived safely under engine last night in Mindelo on the island of Sao Vicente, the second largest island of the group. They were helping deal with the practical issues of repatriating the boat and getting used to the idea that their race is over, but they received many messages of support from other skippers again today on the Race’s radio and video broadcasts, and from race fans.
Dick and Peyron had around 120 miles to run to the Equator at 1530 GMT today with a lead of just over 42 miles on second placed Foncia, Michel Desjoyeaux and François Gabart. The chasing duo seem little compromised by their crash box damage which is expected to see them stop in Recife, Brazil on Friday and were matching the leading boat for pace through today.
The Foncia technical team will be awaiting the arrival of the duo for an operation which they anticipate will take around 20 hours. With Estrella Damm, Pepe Ribes and Alex Pella, now less than 100 miles behind, and closing still this afternoon, the clock will be ticking as the Foncia team set up a grand-prix pit-stop to replace sacrificial ‘nose cone’.
Estrella Damm still have the Doldrums to contend with, and face the prospect of going through tonight at least some of the time in darkness. When the light winds convergence zone is narrow as it is now, the difference between a daylight and night passage can be significant. Of course by day the duos can monitor cloud activity more accurately, and watch the actions of the wind on the water. But the Spanish duo Pella and Ribes seem to have lined up neatly with a westerly position on their rivals.
Gabart, the second youngest co-skipper in the race by a matter of two months, relayed his impressions of his first Doldrums crossing this morning. "This is getting towards the real doldrums experience. In a few minutes it went from light to grey to black in the Pot au Noir [Doldrums] and the wind went from 25 knots to 0 knots in one direction and another. 30 then 40 knots. Not really time, then, to have a wash in the rain, then!” wrote Gabart.
Meantime Dominque Wavre – who said today that he has been through the Doldrums around 30 times and Michèle Paret reported that their progress is being hampered by damage to their large gennaker aboard Mirabaud.
Wavre reported: "It does not feel too much like the Doldrums for us at the moment. It is bit grey with some cloud cover, but no obvious distinguishing marks of the Doldrums at the moment. It looks like it will be quite easy to pass, very good news for us.Yesterday we ripped our gennaker, so we don’t have the est sail for these conditions at the moment. The situation is a little difficult, to repair it we would need it to be calm, flat seas to spread it over a dry deck. So at the moment we are a gennaker down. So we need some luck with the weather. The last few hours have been difficult without the best sail you need. It is one of the reasons we are now positioned most in the east. Outside it is misty, hardly resembling the trade winds which brings a very blue sky. Here the sky is quite white and the night stars are not visible. That does not make sailing at night very easy. I think I have passed through the Doldrums about 30 times. This time looks a little easier than in my memory. We should be through by tomorrow evening."
Pachi Rivero reported from on board Renault ZE Sailing Team: "Now we have 21 knots of wind from the NW and steering 52°. We are making 17 knots of speed and sometimes reaching 20 knots. We are calm, we have one day left with good trade winds. But they are dropping. To pass Neutrogena before the Doldrums would be very difficult. We passed the girls but they are more in the west and so that will be better for them. If the wind drops then we will change sails and go more downwind. Going through Cabo Verde we wanted to leave the islands to port but we are now in the south west after Cabo Verde it will be calmer, before this it was just sleep and drive, sleep and drive. Now it is a nice day and we might have a shower. We are kind of dirty now, but we are more worried about the meteo than a shower. We are evaluating the meteo for the Doldrums looking at a strategy.”
From on board Neutrogena, Boris Herrmann reported: "Today is perfect but the last few days have been difficult, crossed seas and rough seas so the boat was nosediving and going everywhere so we are through that and moving fast, at 20 knots now. We have 24 hours of good winds then we will slow down and the passage of the doldrums looks very manageable."
The course has been modified slightly this morning with Race Direction notifying the skippers that they now need to leave Gough Island (40°16S.09°57W) to starboard.
This will effectively corral the fleet slightly more to the east and prevent them running deeper to the south, where there may be concerns about ice, and ‘hooking’ back north to satisfy the first safety gate, the Atlantic Gate at 42°00S. 001°00E - 011°00E where one of the two points must be left to starboard.