The Doldrums passage continues to look quite promising for the pacemakers of the Vendée Globe as Alex Thomson (HUGO BOSS) holds a margin of just over 100 nautical miles on Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut).
Ruyant and fourth placed Charlie Dalin (Apivia) were the quickest overnight but in general speeds have eased now since yesterday’s burst when it seemed Alex Thomson’s 24 hour record might fall.
So far Ruyant, who had to abandon his Vendée Globe in December 2016 when he hit a semi-submerged object west of New Zealand, has roundly endorsed his pre-start ranking as a podium favourite on his Verdier design. His solid routing choices have been enhanced by excellent speed in all conditions and this morning he is in second, 35 miles clear of Dalin and his similar Verdier design which has been showing near identical speeds over the last 24 hours in the trade winds conditions – both doing 486 nautical miles to 0400hrs this morning.
Both have gained about 30 miles on leader Thomson since the equivalent position report yesterday morning.
So far the British skipper has not shown any significant slowdown to signal the start of the ITCZ and was still making close to 20kts averages through the nigh at some 400 nautical miles to the Equator. The leaders should pass into the Southern Hemisphere tomorrow night or Thursday morning.
On fifth placed PRB Kevin Escoffier, while keeping an eye out for weed which has been prolific in places, said this morning “These are great surfing conditions but the wind is sometimes unstable, you have to be on it, but I am really enjoying it"
If the adrenalin is pumping and the routine intense at the front of the fleet, more than 1000 miles to their north are a group of more than ten boats still fighting their way out of the Azores high pressure zone where conditions are more akin to the Doldrums.
“We have our first Doldrums. We had to stay on deck to take advantage of the slightest breath of air to keep moving forward. These boats are so energy sapping but that's it, it seems that I am finally getting into the start of the trade winds " explained Armel Tripon, 27th on the 5 o'clock ranking aboard his black and yellow L’Occitaine scow, his voice clear and calm. Tripon has maintained his routine of daily meditation sessions to help allay the frustration: “The course is long, I intend to get on the fast train and be going fast soon!” He continues. “Three days of wandering aimlessly in this calm is galling. Each ranking shows the situation getting worse. The rich are getting richer but here at the back we are still chomping at the bit.”
Meantime the very light wind conditions have been a blessing for the Japanese Kojiro Shiraishi who has been stopped or very slowed to repair his mainsail. The skipper of DMG Mori has only covered 30 miles in the past 24 hours.
Kevin Escoffier said,
"Right now, the trade winds in the southern hemisphere are east rather than south-easterly there is less conflict (between the trade winds) in the inter-tropical convergence zone. The more parallel the trade winds (are to each other in opposite hemispheres) the easier the Doldrums are to cross. These are good conditions, but despite everything the wind is quite unstable, I might be a little too far east I think. It’s not easy to find the right sail combination but I’m downwind and it goes really well. It's single file traffic here. If I could sleep more it would be better. I don't eat very well either. As I speak I am eating a square of chocolate.The first week was intense, I thought it was due to my lack of solo experience, but I understand everyone is a little tired.
I have had lots of flying fish since yesterday, but mostly weed. I've got the deck full, the cockpit full. My hydro generator is feathered because of the weed. I don’t remember seeing it here before I’m very surprised, normally it’s closer to the Caribbean islands. I do tend to see the mistakes I make, but I feel like I’ve been pretty good in what I've been doing from the start. I didn’t have any big technical problem, I’m in the right group even though Thomas (Ruyant) and Charlie (Dalin) have been sending it over the past 48 hours. I'm happy with my first week, I'm happy to be here.