Ericsson hunts down leaders en-route to the doldrums

The leading pack in the Volvo Ocean Race is experiencing ‘trying’ conditions as they race towards the ITCZ (Inter Tropical Convergence Zone – the doldrums) still approximately 36 hours ahead of them. “Some times the wind Gods just don’t shine on you,” wrote a frustrated Neal McDonald, skipper of Ericsson late last night. It is a complete change from the wild, wet scary rides for the first night and the crews are now dogged by massive clouds, wind shifts and areas of little or no wind.

In spite of his frustration, McDonald and his crew are convincingly hunting down leaders Brasil 1 (Torben Grael) and have reduced the lead to just 13 miles, sailing consistently over one knot faster. The two ABN AMRO boats (Mike Sanderson and Sebastien Josse) are sticking firmly out to the west in a 66-mile west/east split in the fleet, maintaining identical speeds.

The dying breeze has affected Sunergy and Friends (Grant Wharington) as they trail the fleet by 498 nm, only averaging 8.9 knots during the last six hours.

The main decision onboard is where to cross the doldrums – the light wind zone which lies between the current positions of the boats and the scoring gate. Currently, the northern edge of the doldrums is at about 7 deg North at the yachts’ current longitude (between 27W and 30W). The doldrums are wide at the moment, extending south to about 2 or 3 degrees north latitude. In this zone winds are 10 knots or less and there are some scattered showers.

The air temperature is rising, and layers of clothing are being peeled off, to reveal the battle wounds from the first night. Bruises and bashed fingers are common from being washed down the deck into something solid, but everyone is still smiling; a sense of humour is definitely required to do this race.