Approaching the Equator
Telefonica and race leader Puma emerged from the Doldrums yesterday evening and are now poised to cross the Equator and into the southern hemisphere. The big black line around the globe was around 46 miles away from Puma at 0703 this morning. On her track, slightly to the east of Iker Martinez' Spanish VO70, Puma has done a marginally better job getting through the Doldrums and out the other side and so has extended her lead to 12.5 miles at the latest sched.
Yesterday evening, as the leaders were exiting the Doldrums, third placed Camper had closed to 104 miles on Puma, Groupama to 255 miles or gains of 42 and 59 miles respectively. However the net result now that the lead duo have been back up to speed for a few hours has worked against the boats behind. Camper, still in the thick of the Doldrums, has now dropped back to 156 miles astern of Puma while Groupama is back to a 334 mile deficit. Assuming that the Doldrums peter out in much the same place as they did for Puma and Telefonica yesterday, then Camper should emerge soon. However due to her position further east, Groupama has had to take a different tactic and gybed to the SSE this morning at around 0100, the reason being that the Doldrums appear to be further north where she is and she should be through and into the southeasterlies marking the exit to the Doldrums at around 5°N, or at some point this morning. Presumably as soon as she strikes the new breeze she will tack for the next mark of the course at Fernando de Noronha, off the Brazilian coast. At the latest sched this was 283 miles away for Puma. The lead duo should continue to 'extend the elastic' today as the further south they sail, the more the wind will build, the faster they will go.
Overnight, Camper skipper Chris Nicholson reported a huge storm cell right in their path, measuring about 60 nm wide. Not to be deterred, he remained upbeat: “We can still win this leg,” he said. “We’ve got about 4,000 nm to go. We’ve got the hammer down as hard as we can go.”
This morning the situation was improving for Camper but for Groupama 4 it had worsened, the French team struggling with thunderstorms, lightning and sickening patches of zero wind.
The team reported a northerly wind in their area at 0600 UTC this morning. “The GRIB files indicate a vast windless area ahead of us,” observed the crew. “Squalls, tacking, gybing, wind, no wind. For the ones who like manoeuvres, it’s great, but for the ones who expected to use that opportunity to gain on our competitors, it seems a little less obvious,” they said.
Meanwhile photographer/MCM on Puma, Amory Ross, and Jerry Kirby's son and heir, Rome, will be contemplating the mixture of week old freeze-dried and other human and boat-related detritus that will shortly be applied to them in homage to King Neptune. See Amory's blogs here.