Transat Jacques Vabre - Oman Air-Musandam approaches the Doldrums

The Oman Air MOD70. Skippered by Sidney Gavignet (FRA) with team mates Thomas LeBreton (FRA), Fahad Al Hasni (OMA), Neal McDonald (GBR),Damian Foxall (IRL), Mohsin Al Busaidi (OMA), Ahmed Al Hassani (OMA) and Giles Favennec (FRA)
© Jean-Marie Liot
In the Transat Jacques Vabre, as Sidney Gavignet, Oman Air-Musandam’s French skipper and Damian Foxall, his co skipper from Ireland, reach the Doldrums and the halfway mark of this epic 5,450nm race after just six days at sea; they face some big decisions.

Sitting just 70nm behind the other MOD70, Edmond de Rothschild, the pair is dedicated to maintaining boat speed and making up the distance. They are taking turns on the helm to keep the boat ‘flying’ as Sidney describes: 'We don’t have capsize concerns at the moment, nor much adrenaline, the current conditions mean we are completely engaged in the pursuit of speed, we need to keep the boat flying at all times and to keep the centre hull out of the water to reduce drag and increase speed. It takes a lot of concentration,' he described via an email sent overnight.

Transat Jaques Vabre 2013. Le Havre - Itajai, Brazil The Oman Air Musandam MOD70 skipper Sidney Gavignet (FRA)

When we spoke to Damian Foxall at dawn, the boat speed was high at 25 knots in 20-25 knots of wind and the pair had 200nm to go until the Doldrums.

'We have beautiful conditions out here, we are in a bit less wind than our rivals, but we decided to gybe a bit earlier than Edmond de Rothschild to reduce the gap so our options approaching the Equator are a bit different to theirs.

'For the last couple of days we have had perfect conditions for these boats, we are flying along!' said Damian.

With some big decisions ahead on the passage through the high pressure convergence zone, shore-based router Jeff Cuzon is supporting them with the strategy, but right now, as Damian points out the plan is to go as fast as possible and get as much rest as possible.

'The next phase is never easy, Jeff is supporting us with the right passage through, but it can be very tricky.

Oman Air MOD70 - Musandam. Pictures of Damian Foxall (IRL) training onboard the MOD70

'We decided to make the approach to the Doldrums further east than Sebastien Josse and Charles Caudrelier and gybed accordingly. Within the next 36 to 48 hours, we will know whether that has paid off.

'The race is far from finished, there are still three or four major phases remaining where anything can happen. We are focussed and determined. Plus there is still plenty of Nutella left to keep us going!'

Oman Air-Musandam will sail out of the trade winds later today and the wind speed will drop significantly as the Sultanate of Oman’s flagship campaign approaches the Doldrums and the challenges that the 300nm-wide high-pressure convergence zone guarantees!