CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand are eying an upcoming opportunity to finally close the gap on their three rivals as the fleet approaches the windless Doldrums zone on the first leg of the 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race, which started in Alicante, Spain just over a week ago.
The race is currently led by US flagged entry, Puma Racing, the fourth led change in the week. Two of the six yachts have withdrawn from the first leg, and will be shipped directly to the first stopover, Capetown after a tumultuous opening night of the 39,000 round the world race.
Roughly five degrees of Latitude either side of the Equator, the heating effect of the sun, combined with the convergence of the northern and southern hemisphere trade winds, creates an area of predominantly light winds, punctuated by intense thunderstorms and sudden wind squalls.
Navigator Will Oxley on the look out for breeze again onboard CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand during leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Alicante, Spain to Cape Town, South Africa. - Hamish Hooper/Camper ETNZ/Volvo Ocean Race© Click Here to view large photo
Onboard CAMPER, navigator Will Oxley is viewing the Doldrums as an opportunity to re-engage with the fleet.
'History tells us that west is best for a passage of the doldrums however once through the doldrums a boat in the west has to sail finer, tighter angles to Fernando and the boats slightly to their east is able to put the bow down and go faster.
'Its pretty clear to those experienced watchers of races down the Atlantic that our passage so far has been anything but orthodox.
'The good news is that we should now be able to point the bow towards Fernando whereas normally at this stage we would be worrying about how to get west and also avoid the wind shadows of the cape Verde islands.
'This is what Groupama are surely doing. They’re in a difficult position at the moment. The low-pressure system to the north has completely disrupted the trade winds and the Cape Verde Islands are in their way.
I think its likely that Groupama will attempt to cross the ITCZ much further to the east than the other three boats, this is a higher risk option. But as always-high risk options can pay big dividends. It could also see big loses. Only time will tell.
'As we sail south, a new Azores high pressure system (when this is in position the trade winds reestablish) is moving in behind us. This means its likely that there will be some compression of the fleet as we move south as the boats further south will have less wind.
'PUMA and Telefónica both have a very healthy lead over us at present. Our sole aim is to reduce that deficit as much as possible by Fernando to give us a chance of overtaking them in the south Atlantic.
'There is still a long way to go in this leg.'
Despite losing heavily on the other three yachts, Groupama has now got a reasonable breeze - 13 November 1900hrs UTC - PredictWind.com?nid=90688
The tracks of the four yachts (Groupama is the orange track) around the Cap Verde Islands - 13 November 1900hrs UTC - PredictWind.com?nid=90688