Equator, Doldrums Ahead.
At 260 miles to the Equator this morning and in an E’ly trade wind which has built and rotated right a little since the minor pinch point at Recife the leading trio of IMOCAs, Apivia, Bureau Vallée and SeaExplorer Yacht Club de Monaco have accelerated slightly returning average speeds of between 17.5 and 19 knots. Charlie Dalin, Louis Burton and Boris Herrmann have all gained slightly on fourth placed Thomas Ruyant who is, unfortunately, not able to match the leaders’ speed with no useable port foil. The 24 hours average speed for Ruyant is 13.9kts compared with between 15 and 16 for the leading trio.
And after 69 days racing here is the point coming up where the tracks of the “ascent” crosses that of the “descent”, the return courses crossing or at least passing close to the outwards routes. The Doldrums are the next hurdle, the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone is in the crosshairs, with its normal diet of squally showers, wind holes and unsettled, shifty breezes.
In theory the first in should be the first out, but not necessarily. Logically, this crossing of the doldrums from South to North will be around 32 ° West, usually between 29 ° and 34 ° and it is this point of crossing that we will have to be determined this Saturday.
Looking at the current choices Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut) should be most westerly at 33 ° 30 West, the leading trio Charlie Dalin (Apivia), Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée 2) and Boris Herrmann (SeaEplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco) one degree more east at 32 ° 30 and Damien Seguin (APICIL Group) a full two degrees or about 120 miles more west at 30 ° 30 W.
Each skipper has sophisticated tools (satellite photos, virtual images, weather forecasts, cloud evolutions, etc.) which above all make it possible to avoid areas of squalls which, theoretically, are less developed and less violent to the West of the meridian 30 ° West. So it should be a good day for the leaders whose exit point is very much determining their initial angle into the NE’ly trades and for the first part of the climb towards the Azores high pressure ridge which seems to be diminishing slightly.
The ITCZ is largely between the equator and 3 ° 30 North, or about 200 miles wide and sees about ten knots of wind quite stable in strength more ast in direction. This that the slowdown will be temporary just a slowdown not a stop. And it could be down to the timing, at dusk and night or by dawn which proves a net compression or expansion among the leaders.