• Should I stay, or should I go?

    As the fleet heads south towards the Azores high pressure zone it’s ‘make your mind up time’ about how far east to go

  • Doldrums dodging

    Finding the route through the doldrums is going to be down to sharp navigation and a fair amount of luck. It could also be where the whole race starts again

  • Fleet splits

    So close is the racing that it has taken one week for the fleet finally split. How long will it last?

  • Slow progress could mean forced diet for crew

    With the first leg possibly taking an extra four days, lack of food could be a problem

  • Lost internet access on Amer Sports One

    How will Grant Dalton’s reported lost Satcom B affect weather predictions on board Amer Sports One?

Dodging the Azores high pressure zone adds to the complex game of chess that crews are having to face on their way south towards the Canary Islands. Although east is the only option, the decision on how far inshore to go to skirt the ridge, could be crucial.

Team SEB who had to make a pit stop to pick up spares on Sunday are tail-ending the fleet but, with a bit of cunning navigation through the Canary Islands towards Tenerife and Grand Canaria, where there should be more breeze, this team could gain a lot of lost ground. It’s a bit of gamble but if it works, it’ll work and as there position stands at the moment, they’ve not got a lot to loose.

Meanwhile the leading pack of five boats continue to track south in hope of picking up the north-easterly Trade Winds. This dead downwind leg will give an opportunity for the three different designs to show their true colours before reaching the inevitable doldrums which are just over a week away.

In past VORs the approach to the doldrums has been a bit of a lottery but this time, a mark of the course – the island of Fernando de Noronha, 200 miles off the north-east tip of Brazil – will give the fleet little option but to head west thus avoiding the worst of the windless area. The chances of becoming completely becalmed are fairly slim although there is little doubt that the fleet will generally slow down to approximately 120-150 miles per day.

Also of interest will be how the fleet, which is now split between the five leaders and the three trailing boats, emerges from the Azores High. With Team SEB already taking a gamble, the next few days could show a complete change of positions and once the fleet reaches the doldrums, it could be possible for the race to start all over again.

The slow progress in the early stages of the race so far means that the first leg will possibly extend four days over the predicted 30 days. This being the case, it’s likely that food will be rationed to ensure it lasts as far as Cape Town. Grant Dalton, skipper of Amer Sports One, is already reporting concern about the possibility of lack of food and how best to cope with the situation.

One thing all the teams have witnessed in the last week is just how costly gear failure will be on this race. In just one week the fleet has seen two split headboard cars, a couple of blown out spinnakers and a variety of other minor problems all costing those concerned precious miles. And while just a few miles separates the lead boat, no one can afford to throw this distance away through gear failure. At the moment less than 100 miles separates the front from the back and when boats are doing 200-250 miles a day that’s just 12 hours downtime. SEB and Djuice Dragons have both experienced what this feels like.

While some of the breakages are relatively easy to repair, the reported loss of the Satcom B system on board Grant Dalton’s Amer Sports One could prove to be one of the most costly. With no Internet access, their tactics could suffer. “Itís a major setback,” said Dalton, “because we are totally dependant on it for all our weather information.” After the initial shock however, Dalton and team see