Volvo Ocean Race: Leaders halted by the Doldrums

Camper reclaims second and closes to within 6.2 miles of Puma

Tuesday May 1st 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

Volvo Ocean Race charts courtesy of Expedition/Tasman Bay Navigation Systems and GRIB (European model) from PredictWind

Positions at 0655 UTC:

Pos Boat Skipper Lat Lon Spd Crs DTF DTL
1 Puma Ken Read 03 36.130n 046 33.250w 3.7 308 2368.5 0
2 Camper Chris Nicholson 03 28.530n 046 31.570w 3.4 306 2374.7 6.2
3 Telefonica Iker Martinez 03 17.620n 046 39.550w 4.6 307 2375.7 7.2
4 Abu Dhabi Ian Walker 02 34.830n 045 36.530w 11.1 301 2451.2 82.7
5 Groupama Franck Cammas 02 28.130n 045 16.620w 13 331 2470.7 102.2

While the Volvo Ocean Race leaders broke through into the northeasterlies as they crossed the Equator yesterday morning and were making fast progress beam reaching northwest, in the early hours of this morning they have hit a brick wall as they pass the northernmost part of the Brazilian coastline.

The leaders have encountered giant clouds typical of the Doldrums and this has caused a major compression at the front of the fleet. The boat on boat match race for second place between Telefónica and Camper came to a close with the Spanish boat taking up a position 14 miles to leeward (southwest). As a result early yesterday evening Camper regained second place. But the major change that Puma's lead that topped out at just over 30 miles at around 1400 yesterday to just 6.2 miles at the latest sched, all of the lead trio currently making less than 5 knots.

The crew of Puma tried every sail they had on board to keep moving. One squall brought Camper and Telefónica within sight, while the US boat lay becalmed with only the mainsail hoisted with the keel canted to one side to prevent the boom from sweeping uncontrollably across the deck.

As Puma's Amory Ross reported: “We still hate clouds. We hate them – even the pretty ones. They ruin our days and plague our nights and they’ve just done it again. One massive, unavoidable green glob on the radar and an ominously dark splotch on the horizon indicate imminent doom. Nothing can prepare you for the gut-wrenching conclusion once its run its course and stolen your wind, hopes and in this case, your hard-fought lead.”

However the biggest losses over the last 24 hours have been those of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, 67 miles off the pace yesterday morning, this had doubled by 0300 this morning, although, showing to degree to which the leaders have stopped in the last few hours, they have since pulled back to 82 miles - a gain of 45 miles on Puma in three hours...

The only good news to come from this has been for Groupama. Her deficit on the leader increased to around 150 miles yesterday evening but over this mornin she has regained almost 50 miles.

The satellite wind radar image from last night indicates that the boats should be out of the worst of this Doldrums area imminently (ie by around 4°N) with the conditions more stable on the southwest side of where the boats are (ie on Telefonica's side).



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