From Cape Toriñana, approximately 50 miles from the start of the Global Solo Challenge (GSC) in La Coruña, to the archipelago of Fernando de Noronha, off the coast of Brazil, the True heading is about 207º with a distance of about 3000 Nautical Miles.
Once skippers reach the latitude of Saint Peter and Saint Paul islands, the Equator will be a short sail away. Typically during a circumnavigation boats choose a longitude of approximately 27-28 degrees West to cross the Doldrums and then the Equator. Therefore, the route to the South Atlantic takes skippers a long way West to make the best of prevailing winds, only 150 miles East of the Fernando de Noronha archipelago, off the coast of Brasil, before heading South.
This longer route is typical of average seasonal conditions during the GSC, when low-pressure systems, trade winds and equatorial calms are not displaced from their normal positions and no technical or human mishaps force the skipper to a different course.
Once competitors reach the latitude of Fernando de Noronha they will be about 2,200 Nautical Miles from Tristan da Cunha to the SSE whilst Cape Town will be almost 4,000 miles to port.
The archipelago of Fernando de Noronha includes 21 islands covering a total area of 26 km2, with only the largest island being inhabited and carrying the same name as the archipelago. Its position is 03º50′ S and 032º24′ W. All the emerging land is of volcanic origin, the majority being islets around the main island. The second largest Island is Rata Island, which covers an area of 4.8 km2. Punta de Lucena is the northernmost emerging land of the archipelago, located at 03º43′ S and 032º21′ W.
The main island offers a good lee shore along the North West cost, very protected from the SE trade winds. It can offer temporary shelter to the participants of the GSC, in case someone needs calmer water to carry out repairs or for any other reason. It will be the last bit of land in calm waters and good weather before the competitors dip South towards Tristan da Cunha in totally different weather conditions.
The weather at these latitudes is typically tropical, with a dry season from August to January and a rainy season from February to July. The temperature is very stable throughout the year, being slightly higher from November to April, always hovering around 29º/30º degrees during the day and 20º at night. The predominant wind is the trade wind from the SE with an east and southeast direction in the same proportion, blowing with an average force of 4. The sub-equatorial current, between the equator and 06ºS, is one of the most regular in the world. Always from the West and WSW with an average speed of one knot.
Weather tactics will play a big role in the northern part of the South Atlantic. Participants will have to deal with the Saint Helena High that can preclude progress to the south with extended areas of light winds. Skippers will have to find the fastest and avoid getting stuck in windless areas.
Until relatively recently, tropical storms were unknown in the South Atlantic. However, a precedent was set in March 2004 when Hurricane Catarina formed along the Brazilian coast, so they cannot be ruled out.
Arriving at the Fernando de Noronha archipelago will mark a new section of the route for GSC participants, the beginning of another chapter bringing many changes. After the latitude of Saint Helena skippers will close towards the big South, with increasingly complicated meteorology and much more challenging conditions