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15 February 2005, 10:57 am
Transiting the Transition Zone
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Oryx Quest 2005

"It's like being inside a cement mixer," is how Brian THOMPSON, skipper of Doha 2006, described the conditions on board this morning as the massive catamaran negotiated a transition zone between the doldrums and fresh breeze to the south.
"Another very interesting night as we traveled around the eastern side of a small low-pressure system that was in the transition zone between the westerly and easterly winds. We kept moving throughout, putting in several gybes as we went south. The seas were getting increasingly lumpy as we got to the transition, and then the wind became incredibly shifty. We had to reduce sail to two reefs to get through without any damage. We had a few fast manouevers to do as the wind shifted 130 degrees in seconds and gusts came through from all around, but after a week of practice the team are moving into their positions and getting on with their own jobs and making rapid sail changes."

Thompson's log describes a typical day in the doldrums as the crew deal with the difficult conditions found in the transition zone between hemispheres. It's wet, muggy and tiring work that often seems hardly worth the effort for no sooner have you taken two reefs than the wind dies and you have to shake them out again. Brian THOMPSON and his watch leaders have the difficult job of finding the fine line between keeping speed up, not exhausting the crew, and most important of all, not breaking the boat. They seems to have found the correct balance and at the 06:00 GMT poll Doha 2006 had regained a small lead over Geronimo. The catamaran is 100 miles to the south of the trimaran, but Geronimo is to the east which minimizes Doha 2006's lead.

On board Geronimo skipper Olivier de KERSAUSON is also finding the conditions tough going. "The seas are very short and steep," he said in a satellite call to his shore team. "The conditions are not good for a mulithull. It's going to be at least 12 hours until we will be able to get the boat back up to speed and sailing fast." De Kersauson is known for being a conservative sailor. This will be his tenth circumnavigation and he, better than anyone, knows that it's a long race and you need a good solid boat to finish. By backing off the speed, Geronimo will be in better shape to face the tough sailing down south especially if Doha 2006 beaks some critical piece of equipment. After taking the lead during the day on Monday, de Kersauson seems not the least bit concerend to give it up again in order to favour his boat.

The leaders have opened up another 40 miles on Daedalus and Cheyenne and at the 06:00 GMT poll Daedalus was trailing Doha 2006 by 340 miles with Cheyenne a further 10 miles astern. Tony BULIMORE on Daedalus seems to be taking it all in stride and his daily logs revolve around food, which other than Lalal, his wife of 37 years, seems to be other his real love. His penchant is for head-blowing hot curries and so the rather tastless meal of freeze dried scrambled eggs did not quite meet with his taste buds approval. "Ian MUNSLOW was responsible for the cooking today," he wrote in his daily log. "He dished us up freeze dried scrambled eggs for lunch. I believe all the guys went for this, but it's not my kind of food. I wonder what he will come up with for tonight's supper?" Cheyenne and Daedalus have been enjoying a race of their own as they also deal with the transition zone before the fresh trade winds kick in. Cheyenne is sailing a parallel course to Daedalus eighty miles to the west and at the 06:00 GMT poll was recording the fastest speeds in the race at 18.8 knots.

By the time Brian THOMPSON finished his log they had found the trade winds. "We are now in the southeast trade winds on the other side of this transition zone," he wrote, "and it should be speed sailing, rather than tactical, towards the high pressure guarding the gates of the Southern Ocean. Conditions are going to be tough for the next three days as we close reach in 20-30 knots of wind and three to four metre seas. Once again we will be managing our speed to keep the boat in one piece. It would be all too easy to leap off one wave too many."
Brian Hancock
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