The leaders are storming south, and Save the Children finally pick up the Trades

With the Equator a long way behind for most, there has been a dramatic increase in tempo for the Global Challenge yachts, which are pounding down the latitudes on the south-east Trades notching up some of their highest daily runs to date. In this outright speed race, Italian skipper Amedeo Sorrentino and his crew on Vaio have edged fractionally into the lead.

This is classic ocean sailing: deep purple-blue sea, puffy steam-train cumulus and a steady breeze to alleviate the heat. The constant quick rolling motion may be wearing for the off watch, but there won’t be many complaints after the excruciating frustration of Doldrums. The regular swell offers a chance for the best helmsmen to make small but important gains by surfing. They will still be looking for squalls, more prevalent at night, in the hope of hitchhiking on the downdraft.

One crew fervently hoping to join this club very soon is Save the Children’s. They’ve been wallowing in the Doldrums while the others have been at full pelt for several days, and have become detached from leading yacht Vaio by some 600 miles, or roughly three days. Sod’s Law of the Sea seems to dictate that if leading yachts in any fleet pierce the Doldrums without a long hold-up, the wave of calms will have expanded again by the time the tailenders arrive. This is exactly what happened to Save the Children.

The leading group are down at 10°S, traditionally the point at which the tradewinds cede to more capricious subtropical weather systems. Their big daily runs should continue for a few more days as they are borne along by easterlies.

However, look out for the possibility of diverging tactics later this week. Skippers and navigators will already be looking at how to position themselves in relation to a potential area of high pressure that could open up ahead of them between 25 and 30°S, which they’ll reach in about 5 days’ time. It’s a long way off, but once they pass Cape Frio, near Rio de Janeiro, they will have to cross a wide bight of sea before their course takes them close to land again. They may be tempted off the rhumb line if high pressure drifts over their proper course, so there are likely gains and losses to be made here.

For Save the Children, there’s a chance that any lighter winds will have dissipated by the time they reach the area, allowing them to reduce the gap on some of the yachts ahead. The odds of significantly shrinking their separation from the outright leader, however, are a bit longer.