Leg 1 Day 11 1900 UTC Update: The Volvo Ocean Race racing fleet continues to make swift progress on leg 1, through the notoriously fickle Doldrum belt. The southeasterly tradewinds are almost within grasp.
Throughout the day the fleet has been experiencing a hint of what is to come. Speeds had averaged over ten knots but this evening however, the leading pair - Puma’s Mar Mostro (Ken Read/USA) and Telefónica (Iker Martínez/ESP) - have dropped to around seven knots. Camper (Chris Nicholson/AUS) has the pedal down and is averaging 15.9. Groupama 4 (Franck Cammas/FRA) is struggling at 9.8 knots average and 254.9 nm behind.
It could be as early as tomorrow morning, Wednesday, that the fleet hooks into the much-awaited breeze and begins its drag race towards the Brazilian island of Fernando de Noronha, a non-scoring mark of the course which they must leave to port.
But, although the Doldrums crossing looks set to be rapid, it has not been without pain, as the crews sweat it out onboard in the searing heat. Squalls and rain clouds bring some relief in temperature, but not in constant breeze, and the crews are working hard grappling with countless sail changes to keep the boat sailing fast.
'The rainclouds are quite welcome as it is jolly hot down here right now and there are 11 sweaty bodies on this boat,' Neal McDonald/Telefónica said earlier today.
According to the crew on leading yacht Puma’s Mar Mostro (Ken Read/USA), today’s racing has been 'wet, windy and frenzied'.
For Camper, it continues to be a question of keeping in touch as best they can and not letting the leading duo of Puma and Telefónica extend their lead further.
Although Franck Cammas’ Groupama 4 crew are trailing, watch captain Damien Foxall says, 'we are more than a little way behind, we’re a long way behind, but we were mentally prepared for that. The gains at the moment are more down to fleet compression than boatspeed.' According to Foxall, it is more important for his team to take the small gains and make sure the boat is at 100 per cent.
At 1900 UTC tonight, Puma’s Mar Mostro’s lead had expanded again as Telefónica dropped two nautical miles (nm) and both Camper and Groupama 4 had inched a little closer. CamperR gained 24 nm on this sched and is almost through the 100 nm barrier, just 103.9 behind Puma’s Mar Mostro, but although Groupama 4 has gained five nm, this evening she is still 254 nm in deficit.
Onboard, there is some anxiety among the crews as the equator looms and there will be several victims for King Neptune to deal with tomorrow as early as 0600 UTC for the leaders. But, for the rest of the crew who have already been granted rite of passage by King Neptune, it is business as usual, trying to gain as many miles as possible on each watch.