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To the doldrums’ fortune !

© Jean-Marie Liot /DPPI/Vendée Globe 2012 / Jérémie Beyou/ Maitre CoQ
© Jean-Marie Liot /DPPI/Vendée Globe 2012 / Jérémie Beyou/ Maitre CoQ

As we have entered this second week of racing and all the eyes are glued to the doldrums, a new abandon has reminded us that this race around the world without stopping nor assistance could stop at any time.

On Monday, Jérémie Beyou, who was in the leaders’ pack, has had to retire from the race due to serious keel problems. This 5th abandon gets the number of skippers still racing down to 15. It is hard not to share the disappointment and sadness of Maitre CoQ’ skipper who had put so much passion and energy in his preparation in Lorient to be one of the favourites for this race. It is, however, a verdict without appeal: Jérémie can’t fix the keel head alone and this is a crucial part of the boat to go around the world safely on an IMOCA. Monday, he has hauled his sailed down and given up his dreams of Southern Oceans.

Tropical cooking

In French they call it “le pot au noir”. If it’s plural in English, it’s no doubt to evoque its many facets. This zone we haven’t stopped talking about for the last few days is the Intertropical Convergence Zone- ITCZ- : it is where the northern trade winds hit their southern cousins. For Jean-Yves Bernot, meteo expert in around the world sailing races, the doldrums, with their followed by exhausting periods of dead calm seas, are above all unpredictable. “Trying to get the forecast for wind and clouds in the doldrums is like trying to guess where the bubbles will appear in a pot of boiling water” adds Bernot. Everybody progresses with uncertainty under squalls and thunderstorms, hoping for the best!

For now, the ITCZ has kept its promises and the leaders have been having a really tough time trying to escape. They are unanimous in saying that the doldrums are really active this time. Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) describes it “ 14th of July with lots of thunderstorms”, behind him Bernard Stamm (Cheminées Poujoulat) explains “ It’s the start of the fête”. Like JP Dick (Virbac-Paprec) they have all lived through a nightmare “ pitch black night, the wind goes from 0 to 35 knots all at once, of course under pouring rain!”. The doldrums were apparently not very inclined to let the leaders go through easily. Behind Armel Le Cléac’h, who has escaped, 5 boats are sailing next to each other – less than 2 miles --  and conditions vary immensely from one boat to another making the fight intense.

 

The Equator gathering

The equatorial lottery has allowed to bring the fleet together after a week and a half of racing. Behind, the trio Mike Golding (Gamesa), Dominique Wavre (Mirabaud) nad Jean le Cam (Synerciel) will soon get a taste of the Chef’s specialties before entering the Southern Hemisphere. Those 3 sailors have already regained 200 miles on the leaders in 48 hours. For Arnaud Boissières (Akéna Vérandas) and Bertrand de Broc (Votre nom autour du monde avec EDM projets), same programme, and they are currently sailing in good conditions, going 12 knots and above.

 If the doldrums are more conciliatory with the rest of the fleet, it could be a great opportunity to spice up the competition in the last big slide before the Southern Oceans.

Rankings at 5am (4UTC)

1- Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) 21096,3 miles from the finish

2- François Gabart (Macif) 36,2 miles from the leader

3- Bernard Stamm (Cheminées Poujoulat) 38,2 miles

4- Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac Paprec 3) 38,5 miles

5- Vincent Riou (PRB) 40,1 miles


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