IDEC SPORT has been slowed down this morning. Quite normal. Francis Joyon’s crew is beginning to experience the first effects of the Doldrums. The Equator lies 350 miles ahead. After only four days at sea…
IDEC SPORT is sailing this morning in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the Atlantic. To port, Sierra Leone is 900 miles away. To starboard, Brazil is 1500 miles from the boat. In landlubbers’ terms, that means Africa is more than 1600 km away and South America almost 2800 km. Beneath them the depths (5000 metres). Francis Joyon and his men are entering the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone, which sailors prefer to call the Doldrums and has led to the expression “to be down in the Doldrums.”
Focusing on the helm and the trimming
This is all quite normal, as the Doldrums are know for being an area of uncertainty. It is here that the weather systems in the two hemispheres come together. You rarely get fine weather there, and it all seems very random. You get a series of squalls alternating sunshine and torrential rain, tropical heat and dark clouds, but more importantly, areas without wind and dead calm. In a fleet race, it is possible to remain stuck there, while a rival speeds away at high speed. That is why Bernard Stamm, who has clocked up more round the world voyages than others have had hot diners, has said, “Of all the places in the world, this is the one I most fear.”
A lead of 240 miles
Nothing is certain in this weather confusion that everyone wants to get away from as quickly as possible. The aim of the game (and that is what it is) is to attempt to cross the Doldrums, where they are narrowest. That is why IDEC SPORT is at 27° West this morning, as it is between here and 30° West where the crossing is the least treacherous statistically. That is why IDEC SPORT has been slowed down since 0330hrs this morning with speeds down to 20 knots as opposed to the crazy averages of the past 48 hours, which were around 32 knots or more.
However advancing at 20 knots in this area is still very good. Especially when we think back to the recent Transat Jacques Vabre, a few weeks ago, when the competitors were forced to tack upwind at very low speeds. “The Doldrums shouldn’t be too active or long for us. It’s a different situation from the Transat. I think we should be OK,” Francis Joyon reassured us yesterday during the video link-up. It is clear that the brakes are on, but it is far from being disastrous. The lead over the reference pace has fallen by around 40 miles, but that is quite normal. They still have a comfortable advance of 240 miles (450 km). This means that the six men on IDEC SPORT can look forward to what lies ahead and feel confident. After four days at sea, the Equator is only 350 miles away. Unprecedented.
At 0600hrs on Thursday 26th November, after 4 days and 4 hours at sea, IDEC SPORT was sailing at 23.4 knots at 06°02 North 27°29 West. 350 miles from the Equator. Bearing: South (201°). Lead over the reference time: 237 miles.
The record for the stretch between Ushant and the Equator – held by Loïck Peyron and his crew on Banque Populaire V since 27th November 2011 – 5 days, 14 hours, 55 minutes and 10 seconds.