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Velux 5 Oceans fleet heading for the Doldrums

by Velux 5 Oceans on 5 Apr 2011
Out in front - Brad Van Liew. Velux 5 Oceans Ainhoa Sanchez
The leading boat in the Velux 5 Oceans fleet has reached the first major milestone of ocean sprint four. American ocean racer Brad Van Liew today passed Recife in Brazil, the most easterly point of South America.

With the waypoint now in his wake, Brad can start the big turn towards Charleston allowing him to sail at a better, faster angle to the prevailing winds. Psychologically it is a huge boost for veteran solo sailor, currently leading not only the leg but also the overall race.

At the 1200 UTC position report Brad’s Eco 60 Le Pingouin was 79 nautical miles ahead of nearest rival Canadian Derek Hatfield on Active House as the pair prepared to take on the fluky, unpredictable weather of the intertropical convergence zone, better known as the Doldrums. Lying a few hundred miles either side of the Equator but always moving, the Doldrums are characterised by frustrating calms and unpredictable squalls.

One sailor who knows all too well the fickle nature of the Doldrums is Derek, having to effectively sail through them twice during ocean sprint one when the intertropical convergence zone shifted south as he passed through en route to Cape Town. However early indications could be for a clean passage if the weather models come true.

'Now I am really upping the ante to try to get into a better position,' Derek said. 'Without wanting to tempt fate right now the Doldrums are looking like a non-event. If it continues the way it is now Brad and I could get through without stopping, which would be fantastic.

'On the north side we’ll be back into the trade winds and we can start the drag race right into Charleston. I’ll be putting the pedal to the metal to see if I can catch Brad. He doesn’t make many mistakes though, he’s incredibly good at reading the weather. If he blinks then hopefully I can take advantage of that.'

Also lying ahead of the fleet is the ocean sprint four timed run between speed gates at latitudes 5ºS and 5ºN. So far Brad has won all of the timed runs – but with Derek forecasting a quick run through the Doldrums Brad could be in with some fierce competition.

'I decided on this sprint to really push hard and pick up the pace,' he added. 'This leg I have upped my efforts by 20 per cent or more.'

Positions at 1200 UTC

Skipper / distance to finish (nm) / distance to leader (nm) / distance covered in last 24 hours (nm) / average speed in last 24 hours (kts)
Brad Van Liew, Le Pingouin: 3555.3 / 0 / 288.4 / 12
Derek Hatfield, Active House: 3634.5 / 79.3 / 264.4 / 11
Zbigniew Gutkowski, Operon Racing: 3754.9 / 199.7 / 183.8 / 7.7
Chris Stanmore-Major, Spartan: 3770.5 / 215.2 / 220.8 / 9.2

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