Volvo Ocean Race – Playing the Doldrums lottery

An exhausted Daryl Wislang greets a spectacular sunrise after chasing the wind all night through the Doldrums. pic by  Matt Knighton/Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing

An exhausted Daryl Wislang greets a spectacular sunrise after chasing the wind all night through the Doldrums.
pic by Matt Knighton/Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing

by Agathe Armand

A day and a night of uncertainty – later, the Doldrums will come to an end for the Volvo Ocean Race teams. By tomorrow morning, the fleet should be sailing safely in the southeasterly trade winds.

So – who won this equatorial lottery? What was the best place to cross this convergence zone, where two hemispheres and two weather systems collide?

‘People like to say west is best and maybe there is something to it,’ admits Bouwe Bekking in a message sent from the Brunel boat.

The skipper plays it down, but he knows west was best this time around. His team is now in second position, just behind Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.

The two boats went all the way to the west of the fleet to sail across the Doldrums, and they made the best gains. They barely stopped, and came out of the light wind band some 90 nautical miles ahead of their closest competitors.

‘Believing in your game plan is crucial in this race,’ adds Bouwe. ‘It sometimes hurts terribly when you make huge initial losses, but maybe having done this race a couple of times before has taught you when to relax a bit about it.’

‘When we left the coast of Mauritania, my navigator Andrew Cape and myself were confident that we wanted to be the most western boat in the fleet.’

‘And here we are, in a pretty nice spot compared to the rest of the fleet.’

The only thing annoying the Dutchman is the seven-mile lead Abu Dhabi has managed to get over them. Only because the Emirati boat tacked two minutes after them at some point during their Doldrums duel, and took the lead.

That’s what this patch of water is all about. Going for the good long-term strategy, but also making the right tack, the right gybe, picking the right cloud.

‘You know, our decision to cross east was taken before the Cape Verde Islands,’ explains Team Vestas Wind’s navigator, Wouter Verbraak.

The Danish boat sailed the extreme opposite route to Abu Dhabi and Brunel, yet came out of the Doldrums in third position.

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