Green Dragon have made a 90-mile gain on race leaders Ericsson 4

The Volvo front runners have entered the doldrums, which means changeable conditions, rain, heat, frustration and more importantly for the chasing pack – a chance to compress the fleet.

The chasing boats have pulled back miles. Ian Walker and his crew onboard Green Dragon (see photo) have made a 90 mile gain on Ericsson 4’s lead in the last 24 hours. They are still the most easterly boat and are now under 200 miles behind the leaders. Elsewhere Ericsson 3 – currently in third – have also hit the doldrums as they report wind speeds below five knots.

Ian Walker may have created a real opportunity. He is over 100 miles further east than the rest of the fleet, and heading for a completely different part of the Doldrums. He wrote this morning (23 February):

“There has been plenty of excitement on the Green Dragon in the last couple of days, not least a close call with a huge whale first thing this morning.

“The whale breached the surface about three boat lengths to windward of us when we were charging along at 17 knots. It does make you wonder what the impact would be like if you hit one of these fantastic creatures flat out – it’s probably best not to think about it too much.

“There has been plenty of good news too. First of all Damian heard the news via a phone call from Tom MacSweeney that he has been awarded the prestigious Irish Sailor of the Year Award and then overnight came news that Neal had became an uncle. Congratulations all round!

“Spirits are also high as it seems our easterly route seems to be paying some dividends. We have had a very easy Doldrums passage so far with only one cloud bringing us even close to stopping. The leaders margin has been more than halved although some of this is natural compression as the fleet slows.

“We have done well recently against Telefonica Blue to the West and we are still over 100 miles East of where the leaders passed. This could mean more big gains or possibly losses if things go against us. Wouter and I are still comfortable with our position for now but only time will tell.

“The Equator is now only 140 miles away and our new crewmember Chris Main is right to be concerned about his first crossing. He has had a baptism of fire and is doing a great job but King Neptune and Queen Codfish do not take kindly to lone crewmembers seeking to cross the Equator for the first time – Chris will be very outnumbered!

“The only bad news to report is the increasing hold the lurgy has on our crew. Freddie Shanks is the last one to go down and he has commandeered Guo’s bunk as a sick bay for now. Over half the crew has suffered so far with a queue for the head (toilet) not uncommon. Today we spent an hour sterilising all the cups, bowls and spoons as best we can but the reality of life on these boats is that if one person gets ill it is a fair assumption that everyone will. This means I am probably next in line and funnily enough I can feel a sore throat coming on. I’m off to find the vitamin pills.”

Race Positions – Monday 23 February 06:00 GMT

1 Ericsson 4 SWE (Torben Grael/BRA) DTF 9,368 nm
2 PUMA Racing Team USA (Ken Read/USA) 22
3 Ericsson 3 SWE (Magnus Olsson/SWE) 25
4 Telefónica Blue ESP (Bouwe Bekking/NED) 131
5 Green Dragon IRL/CHN (Ian Walker/GBR) 137

Delta Lloyd IRL (Roberto Bermudez/ESP) DNS
Telefónica Black ESP (Fernando Echávarri/ESP) DNS
Team Russia RUS (Andreas Hanakamp/AUT) DNS