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All change as crews enter the Doldrums



As the four remaining crews enter the notorious windless Doldrums zone, PUMA Ocean Racing has built up a lead of some 12 nautical miles over Telefonica. Emirates Team New Zealand's CAMPER is currently 146.2 nm behind the leader with Groupama languishing back in fourth, a further 100 nm behind.


The Doldrums covers the area roughly five degrees of Latitude either side of the Equator where the heating effect of the sun, combined with the convergence of the northern and southern hemisphere trade winds, creates an area of predominantly light winds, punctuated by intense thunderstorms and sudden wind squalls.


CAMPER navigator Will Oxley sees the Doldrums as the opportunity to close the gap.


“History tells us that west is best for a passage of the Doldrums. However once through the Doldrums, a boat in the west has to sail finer, tighter angles to Fernando and the boats slightly to their east is able to put the bow down and go faster.


“Its pretty clear to those experienced watchers of races down the Atlantic that our passage so far has been anything but orthodox.


“The good news is that we should now be able to point the bow towards Fernando whereas normally at this stage we would be worrying about how to get west and also avoid the wind shadows of the cape Verde islands.


“This is what Groupama are surely doing. They’re in a difficult position at the moment. The low-pressure system to the north has completely disrupted the trade winds and the Cape Verde Islands are in their way. I think its likely that Groupama will attempt to cross the ITCZ much further to the east than the other three boats. This is a higher risk option. But, as always, high risk options can pay big dividends. It could also see big losses. Only time will tell.


“As we sail south, a new Azores high pressure system (when this is in position the trade winds re-establish) is moving in behind us. This means its likely that there will be some compression of the fleet as we move south as the boats further south will have less wind.


“PUMA and Telefónica both have a very healthy lead over us at present. Our sole aim is to reduce that deficit as much as possible by Fernando to give us a chance of overtaking them in the south Atlantic.


“There is still a long way to go in this Leg.”


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