Volvo Ocean Race. It’s A Lottery Out There

On board Turn the Tide on Plastic. Trying to keep cool.
Photo by Brian Carlin/Volvo Ocean Race

by Richard Crockett

One thing in sailing is for certain and that is that the doldrums are a lottery.

On the way South on Leg 2 to Cape Town as the fleet crossed the equator in the Atlantic, they were given an easy passage and literally whistled through.

It’s now very different. Speeds are down. It’s stifling hot and humid, and the leaderboard has been turned on its head. Just ask MAPFRE as they know, having dropped from 1st to 6th in a matter of hours as Turn the Tide on Plastic took the lead.

Although sounding very dramatic, the distance between 1st and 6th is under 10 miles, but that’s a lot of sailing when the fleet is making 2 knots of boat speed if they are lucky!

This could be a long, difficult and very important in terms of strategy period through the doldrums. So watch this space as the key to success lies in how soon they can escape the clutches of the Doldrums.

Roberto Bermudez “Chuny” seeking shelter from the hot morning sun on board Vestas 11th Hour.
Photo by Amory Ross/Volvo Ocean Race

Dee Caffari, skipper of Turn the Tide on Plastic said this:

“We are keeping good company.”

“We not only managed to keep sight of Vestas but close the gap too and then last night we spent the whole night checking bearings on masthead lights from those around. All four other leading boats were within sight and we were doing well.

“It is great to have closed the gap and be sailing with the fleet again. It helps focus our minds and keep pushing on the boat speed. Just before dark the wind speed dropped dramatically, more in line with the grib files and so we are floating along trying to get the most from any zephyr possible. This is the case forecast for the next couple of days now so you cannot afford to take your eye off the ball for a second.

“Life exists on the bow now. Sails are forward, stack is forward and sleeping is forward. The down side to that is there are no fans forward so sleeping is a little hot and sweaty, if you can get any sleep at all! The upside is that everyone is concentrating hard so they are tired from a watch of focus and exposure to the sun, which is harsh.

“If we can stay with the fleet now and get through the light patch with them to the new wind that fills in and be lucky in the cloud activity in any doldrums, then we are in with a shot in the drag race to the finish where the rich will get richer.”