On the fifth day of Gitana Team’s attempt to secure the Jules Verne Trophy, the miles gained over the record holder during the descent of the North Atlantic, have melted away to nothing. Going from a 140-mile lead this morning, the meter has slipped into the red late in the afternoon. The reason for this is that since the end of last night, the men on the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild have been ensnared in the doldrums and it’s the light airs version with slow progress, which has been reserved for them. Faced with these weather hazards, which are completely unpredictable in this intertropical convergence zone, the only option is patience. Aboard the latest of the Gitanas, these calmer times have been put to good use to do a complete check of the boat and recharge the batteries, despite the stifling heat, which has gatecrashed the insides of the five-arrow giant.
“A big curtain of a squall!”
At the end of last night, the entry into the doldrums was brutal for the six sailors on the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild. Morgan Lagravière, who was on watch during this express transition between the trade wind and the convergence zone, described the scene: “It came just as day broke and the half-light gradually became brighter. We began to see the first squalls appearing on the radar. We were only mildly suspicious but then the moment we fell under the influence of the squall, the wind picked up and we got nailed by a serious header and, fairly swiftly, we had to rush to the sheets to prevent the boat from heeling over too far! It rapidly became a case of action stations! We had to roll in the headsail, the large jib, so we could switch to a sail better suited to sailing close-hauled. It all happened in the blink of an eye. We didn’t have the time to ask any questions and a few minutes later we all had a good shower, making the most of the end of the squall!”
An exit this evening or overnight
Since this squall rolled through, the wind has vanished from the zone in question. And this is the case for miles around. As a result, the team aboard the blue flying maxi-trimaran have no other option than to just grin and bear it and try to exploit the slightest puff of air in the sails to free themselves from the clutches of the doldrums.
“We have very calm weather, clear skies and small cumulus, reminiscent of summer, not the colours synonymous with a classic doldrums. So for now, there are no black squalls and none of the usual wind. We still have 60/70 miles to go in the light airs before we discover the winds of the southern hemisphere so there’s still a very long way to go. We’d like to hook onto the wind that’s ahead of us, as the more miles we tick off now, the more they will multiply later, creating a concertina effect. Right now, we’re in the middle and it’s very, very calm weather. We’ll get all the possible sail area aloft to extricate ourselves”, admitted Franck Cammas this afternoon.
This 14 January won’t be one to remember with any fondness on this attempt, but aboard the boat, the six members of the crew know how to get things back in perspective and cast their minds forward to the next stage of the programme in the South Atlantic, which is still shaping up to be very interesting. Today, they have had to endure a great deal, but if we look in more detail at the route carved out by Idec Sport, the current holder of the trophy, it is tomorrow that their virtual adversary begins to stall…