This really is a case of making hay whilst the sun shines, but even the teams in the lead know that their gains now may all come to nothing when 200-mile days become a distant memory.
As with the Equator, this will be the race's fourth encounter with the notorious doldrums, but familiarity does not help. No matter how experienced, no sailor can avoid the frustration and tedium that this belt of fickle winds and squalls deals to those who cross.
Each skipper's optimum line of attack is to pass through the belt as quickly as possible and this is where navigational strategy can come into play.
By careful study of all available weather information, the teams will all attempt to cross where the band has squeezed to its narrowest point. If they can time it so that they are sailing north when the ITCZ is drifting south then so much the better, although there is a lot of luck involved here. The redeeming feature is that hopefully the crews will find this particular encounter slightly less bruising as others, as this particular area of ocean at this time of year is less affected than others they have sailed through.
For now though they are all enjoying extremely pleasant sailing conditions, most beam reaching with spinnakers set and poles far forward. The wind has eased to a force 4 and the sea is slight.
Although neither the fastest nor most exhilarating of conditions, this is a very comfortable way to make progress. The Race Officers on the Isle of Wight could well wish for similar conditions as Cowes Week approaches another day of light winds and soaring temperatures. For once the Solent is forecast to be hotter than the 29 degrees Centigrade that the Clipper crews are feeling just off the Equator!
The only change in fleet order sees Bristol Clipper gain one place over Liverpool to take fourth place. The middle of the fleet is certainly the place to watch now, especially with London Clipper a mere 0.2 of a mile behind Liverpool. The next few days should be really interesting.
Race 14 Positions at 03:00UCT
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