A look at the third week of the first leg of the 2001/2 Volvo Ocean Race

  • 15 minutes of fame for SEB – Fed up with life at the back of the fleet, SEB decided it was time for action, and action it was!

  • Speedy doldrums – A sprint through the doldrums is just what the doctor ordered

  • Dalton’s misery – When the wind speed fluctuates and Amer Sports One is unable to use her Code Zero sail, there is no doubt she is losing out

  • Drag racing to Trindade – Unless something major happens, Illbruck’s lead to Trindade looks fairly safe. However, it will get interesting again when the fleet has to decide which route to take to Cape Town

For Team SEB, floundering in last position off the Portuguese coast for the best part of the previous week, the elevation to first place last Saturday must have been just the tonic they needed to get them back in the race. While their spot and the top of the fleet was short-lived, it did prove that taking a flier away from the pack is not necessarily such a bad thing. In SEB’s case she was forced to take the easterly route to pick up her spare headboard car and while her position, 100s of miles behind the fleet looked grime for most of the week, some tactical sailing and fair amount of luck put them in a position they could only have dreamed of.

Sadly for Team SEB in the vulnerable top spot, they were approaching the doldrums – one of the trickiest areas of the race – and on their way west missed easterly wave and ended up trailing behind the leading pack once again.

The doldrums passed a lot quicker than expected with most of the fleet picking up the easterly wave which pushed them south at a reasonable pace. The squally conditions however, with sometimes up to 30 knots of wind, resulted in non-stop sail changes. In the heavy squally downpours, crews also had to cope with the intense humidity which kept them soaked through to the bones, day and night.

On board the all-girls boat Amer Sports Too, Lisa McDonald spoke to YW about the best bits about being stuck in the doldrums “Rain clouds have been our saviour. We’ve had a fresh rinse and a nice cool breeze to pick up the pace with. We’ve also just had the top meal of the day – satay chicken with rice for lunch and jungle juice to wash it down. An ice cream or a cold coca cola wouldn’t go amiss nor would some hot apple crumble with custard. But what we’re looking forward to most right now is charging down the coast of Brazil in the trade winds.” While the girls are coping with the situation well, one of the worse things is not being able to sleep properly. “Sometimes,” added McDonald, “It’s so hot you can’t get comfortable. The more you roll around the hotter you get. You have to be patient and keep still, the middle of the day is the worst but if you don’t get some shuteye then you regret it throughout the night.”

But the girls have a more serious dilemma on their hands. They need new parts for their broken Satcom B terminal (the device used to retrieve both weather information from the internet and for sending photos and videos off the boat) but will have to make a detour back to Djuice Dragons to collect them. While McDonald would undoubtedly like to have the equipment working there is no certainty that the crew have the necessary skills to install the required parts and get the system working again. Plus a deviation from course would cost time and distance in what could ultimately prove a close race with both Djuice and SEB.

On Grant Dalton’s Amer Sports One damaged gear has also become a major issue. With neither of the two halyard locks working it’s virtually impossible to use their Code Zero sails. The drag race from Fernando de Noronha, where sail change for optimum speed is crucial, Amer Sports One is starting to loose out big time. And with the forthcoming downwind sleigh ride from Trindade where this boat should really show her true colours, it’s a s