Some 24 hours ago, the men of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild plunged brutally from high-speed downwind conditions to close-hauled sluggish progress with no wind. Since then, the six sailors have tried everything to extricate themselves from the clutches of this very sticky, all-pervasive doldrums, performing multiple manœuvres and trimming their entire sail wardrobe. But nothing is working! The wind has vanished and with the exception of a few cooperative clouds, which are enabling them to make start-stop progress towards the exit, this passage across the intertropical convergence zone is turning into a long, hard battle. Fortunately, this is not the sailors’ first go at this and they are able to gain some sense of perspective in light of the thousands of miles that lie ahead of the bows of the flying maxi-trimaran. The long old day and sleepless night has cost them dearly. Credited with a 140-mile lead yesterday morning, the sailors of Gitana Team are kicking off their sixth day of the attempt with an 86-mile deficit at 07:00 UTC.
A different scenario for every passage through the doldrums
It is a given that on passing through the gates into this convergence zone between the two hemispheres, you’re entering into the unknown. From violent winds fleshed out by active squalls to an endless series of calm spells, anything goes here and nothing is set in stone. From one race to the next, the doldrums reserves a very different fate for the sailors traversing it, which is why it is so feared by sailors everywhere. Yesterday morning, upon brutally toppling into it at around 08:00 UTC, Franck Cammas, Charles Caudrelier and their crew did not imagine that they would spend 24 hours here, powerless against the lack of wind.
Aboard, despite the tension associated with this lack of speed and the time ticking away, the different watches have endeavoured to continue their routine of rotations to keep up the pace. This is no mean feat amidst the numerous manœuvres, which require all the crew to come up on deck, and the exhausting heat under the cuddy and in the central hull of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild.
Casting one’s mind forward to the next stage of the round the world and taking the positives from the situation are doubtless the best way to begin this 6th day of the Jules Verne Trophy record attempt. The equator, still nearly 150 miles away on a direct course, should be behind them today at which point a very different navigation awaits in the SE’ly trade wind on a course towards the Southern Ocean.