Volvo Race - Action in the Doldrums

Antonio Cuervas and Jaime Arbones grinding on a hot day in the Doldrums on leg 1 of Volvo Ocean Race

The temperatures continue to rise onboard the Volvo Open 70’s out on the race course, as well as the frustrations of the crews. Over the past 24 hours PUMA (Ken Read/USA) and Ericsson 4 (Torben Grael/BRA) have gained on the leader Green Dragon (Ian Walker/GBR).

The two yachts are currently positioned 65 nautical miles to the east of Telefónica Black (Fernando Echávarri/ESP) and slowly overtook the black boat over the hours of darkness as they tracked south. They now sit in second and third respectively.

For Ken Read/USA on il mostro the time to face King Neptune is nearing, but before that the crew of PUMA haa a few good miles to pick its way through the doldrums. Andrew Cape predicts there is 60 nautical miles to go before they might reach the trade winds again.

Thoughts have turned philosophical for Read, as he considers today their tactical plans down the Atlantic, as they led into the 'world’s largest doldrums'.

He joked, 'Early in the race we knew that this was going to be a major trap. The doldrums as described by Capey in his typical understated tones were ‘unusually large’, which translates to, ‘Holy crap, there isn't any wind forever!’ Actually what he described is that the doldrums are exactly where they usually are, and aren't really that large, but there is a huge band of no wind to the north of the doldrums making it seem like the worlds largest doldrums. And he was right.'
For EDITORIAL USE only, please credit: Mark Covell/Team Russia/Volvo Ocean Race Ben Costello at the helm with Guillermo Altadill trimming in the Doldrums on leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race The Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09 will be the 10th running of this ocean marathon. Starting from Alicante in Spain, on 4 October 2008, it will, for the first time, take in Cochin, India, Singapore and Qingdao, China before finishing in St Petersburg, Russia for the first time in the history of the race. Spannin
Their tactic to get through the extended light airs was to stay between their enemies and the scoring gate at Fernando de Noronha but in retrospect Read wonders if they were too tactically conservative.

'In the Green Dragons case, they did a really nice job, back a hundred miles at one point, sailing right around the fleet to the west.

Same thing with Ericsson 4, who after dropping off Tony (Mutter) for medical help found a way back and also boogied to the west.'

Ericsson 4 is a mere 24 miles from the leader and has had the best 24 hour run with 189 miles, 6 miles more than PUMA. Ryan Godfrey, bowman, reported on the crew’s jolly mood, 'We have been in relatively good sailing conditions compared to our competitors and are slowly earning back the ground that we had sacrificed for a more westerly route several days ago. So far, we have managed to avoid any major 'park-ups' in the numerous windless zones that dominate this doldrums area.'

The media crew member, Guy Salter also had something to add today about life onboard their carbon fibre oven of a boat. 'There are some budding tailors onboard and the odd wannabe ballet dancer (in lycra skin tight leggings), but for me the prize for most marginal has to go to a Brazilian and his very short shorts (they get shorter by the day). At least the Speedos have not made an appearance yet, probably because the shoe horn needed to get into them has been left ashore! How about getting your crew shorts back on Torben! Please!' At least the humour has not run out onboard.

As of 10:00 GMT the whole fleet made a concerted decision to head south west towards the waypoint and they have carried on this track for the past three hours. Green Dragon is now 505 miles from the Brazilian island of Fernando de Noronha, with a current speed of 6.7 knots compared to a more healthy 9, 8 and 9.5 knots average on the three boats behind. Yet the only boat to gain on the leader is PUMA since the last report with a three mile gain. Green Dragon is sailing more directly at the mark.

Bouwe Bekking (NED) skipper of Telefónica Blue is another tense man today as he is chased by the Nordic crew of Ericsson 3 (Anders Lewander/SWE). Yesterday saw the two boats within 4 miles of each other as they dodged wind holes. Overnight two boats manoeuvred their way through the squalls but the blue boat extended away from Ericsson 3 and is currently nine miles to the south west.

Bekking described the hard night’s work, 'It was our turn again tonight to have a park-up. We saw thunder and lightning on the horizon appear, so switched our radar on to see if there was any rain. Rain in general is bad news, especially if you are in the wake of a cloud. We could see that the rain was about 16 miles away, so roughly 30 km, and you would expect that there is no impact over such a big distance. But we know better, Ericsson 3 had seen the same thing, and we both tried to sail higher to avoid it as well as possible.

'But again we both ran into the wall. FULLSTOP for two hours, sails flapping. Anyway nice to have a boat right next to you in these conditions, as you can see immediately if you do things right (or wrong) as you have good gauge right next to you. In that sense we have been sailing well.'

Volvo Ocean Race Positions - Leg One Day 11: 1300 GMT - (boat name/country/skipper/nationality/distance to leader)

Green Dragon IRL/CHN (Ian Walker/GBR) DTF 3863
PUMA Racing Team USA (Ken Read/USA) +19
Ericsson 4 SWE (Torben Grael/BRA) +24
Telefónica Black ESP (Fernando Echávarri/ESP) +31
Telefónica Blue ESP (Bouwe Bekking/NED) +64
Ericsson 3 SWE (Anders Lewander/SWE) +73
Team Russia RUS (Andreas Hanakamp/AUT) +91
Delta Lloyd IRL (Ger O'Rourke/IRL) +132