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Volvo Ocean Race: Close Encounters With Leaders Slowing In The Doldrums

12th November 2017
Steve Hayles looking for the right lane on board last-placed Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag as the fleet compresses in the Doldrums Steve Hayles looking for the right lane on board last-placed Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag as the fleet compresses in the Doldrums Photo: Konrad Frost/Volvo Ocean Race

#VOR - Dongfeng Race Team retains the lead in Leg 2 of the Volvo Ocean Race – but only just, as the leaders slow in Doldrums conditions.

Just 10 miles separate first from fourth, and the difference between first and worst is scarcely 45 miles. That’s good news for the backmarkers, namely last-placed Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag and Annalise Murphy’s boat Turn The Tide on Plastic, who are back in the game.

These are agonising conditions for the sailors, who normally live and die by each of the six-hourly position reports.

But with the positions closing up, the other boats are either in sight from on deck, or visible on AIS, a maritime tracking system that shows the position and speed/direction of boats within about 10-12 nautical miles of each other for safety purposes.

Today, the leading group of five are almost certainly visible on AIS to each other.

While the Doldrums are often considered an area of no wind, in reality it is more often an area of variable conditions, where storm cells bring sudden strong winds from a different direction to the prevailing lighter conditions.

This means constant vigilance, and makes it difficult to choose the right sail selection.

“We were sailing south with the fractional code zero (a big headsail good for sailing with the wind on the side of the boat) on and doing about 20 knots boat speed and we could see a big cloud line ahead, which means something is going to happen,” said MAPFRE watch captain Rob Greenhalgh, giving an example of life in the Doldrums.

“It was a big header [windshift], 50-degree header, and an increase in breeze, which meant a frenzy of sail changes, so we’re now on a jib, going upwind, close reaching, so our boat speed is significantly less. Everyone is going to come through this line of Doldrums … Everyone is going to get it … We won’t know how it comes out for about five days.”

It might even come sooner than that. The leading teams should reach the equator in the next 24 hours or so, and pick up the trade winds again within two or three days.

In other news, the Volvo Ocean Race shared video of the reaction of Annalise’s crew mate Nico Lunven to the news that he’s become a father for the second time — thousands of miles away from his family in the middle of the Atlantic.

Leg 2 Position Report, Sunday 12 November at 1pm UTC:

  1. Dongfeng Race Team - DTF 3,848.4 nautical miles
  2. MAPFRE +1.9
  3. Vestas 11th Hour Racing +5.6
  4. Team Brunel +10.2
  5. Team AkzoNobel +12.9
  6. Turn The Tide on Plastic +42.6
  7. Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag +45.7

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