As Roland Jourdain slows considerably Michel Desjoyeaux makes most of trade winds
Roland Jourdain (Veolia Environnement) has been slowed down and appears to have entered the Doldrums while still only sailing at 3° south. This tends to indicate that the Doldrums have moved to the south rather than back up to the north of the Equator. His only hope now is that these calms and thundery squalls will not return north to their more normal position, as he passes through.
With his lead increased to 341 miles – a 28 miles overnight gain – by way of contrast Michel Desjoyeaux is back on the upturn. The leader has for 36 days found the steady trade winds – a 20-knot NE’ly flow, which is forecast to strengthen over the coming hours.
In these headwinds with 2-metre high waves and stifling heat, it is important not to put to much strain on the boat, which has already covered some 20,000 miles. This upwind sailing is set to last for at least four days.
Armel Le Cléac’h (Brit Air) is not likely to reach the Doldrums until the weekend, which means the situation could certainly change considerably by the time he approaches. There are few tactical opportunities for him, so he continues to head north in the easterly trade winds to try to pass the Doldrums at 33° west.
Marc Guillemot (Safran, pictured) and Samantha Davies (Roxy) are working around a Brazilian low, which is heading off east to Africa. The skipper of Safran is close to the coast near Rio and at some point is going to have to move back east to pick up the trade winds ahead and perhaps concede some miles back to Davies, who has been moving well again after more than 48 hours of light airs penance. She was making a consistent 15 knots on Roxy during the small hours of this morning.
Now, having gained more than 100 miles to be less than 800 miles from Le Cléac’h, despite being hampered by his enforced double-reefed mainsail, he seems increasingly determined to boost himself onto the podium by the finish.
The three heading up north off the coast of Uruguay are adopting various strategies. Brian Thompson (Bahrain Team Pindar) hit the lighter airs first and so has lost ground to Dee Caffari (Aviva). At 04:00 GMT he was making just five knots, while Caffari was still trucking along at 10 knots plus. She is now less than 60 miles behind Thompson. As for Arnaud Boissières (Akéna Vérandas), he has moved more than 100 miles to the west and is no longer in the same weather system. The French skipper has opted for a route close to Mar del Plata, believing the two British sailors will find themselves trapped in a wind hole ahead.
Sailing at more than 15 knots, Steve White (Toe in the water) is by far the fastest in the fleet, pushed along by the strong westerlies since the Falklands in a low-pressure system.
Rich Wilson (Great American III) still has 1180 miles of the Pacific to cover, while the two at the rear of the fleet are now on their way eastwards towards the final Ice Gate.