The doldrums are producing their fair share of nail biting situations, not only for the sailors on board their boats as they ride the edge of hair raising squalls, but for us armchair sailors as we watch the position charts.
Overnight Emma Richards on Pindar pulled to within one mile of Thierry Dubois on Solidaires, and this morning she is statistically dead even. The positions, however, need some explaining. If you have been following the distance to finish numbers carefully you will see that the lead boats knocked an extra hundred miles off their trip to Cape Town in just a few hours. The reason for this should be explained. Because Cape Town is almost due south of Torbay, you cannot calculate a distance to go based upon a straight line. It's obvious that the boats have to sail around the African coast, so the race organizers have placed a number of waypoints along the track, and the distance to finish is calculated by adding the distance to the nearest waypoint, to the rest of the trip.
Until yesterday evening the closest waypoint was a hundred miles to the southwest of the lead boats. Thierry Dubois gybed to the east (away from the waypoint) and by doing so it appeared as if Emma had pulled into second place. In fact using that waypoint she was 34 miles ahead of Dubois. This morning race operations changed waypoint to one due south of the yachts, on the latitude of Rio de Janeiro. Using the new waypoint, Emma is behind Solidaires by 13 miles. With well over 4000 miles to go to the finish, the two yachts are in a statistical tie, and both yachts are steadily closing the gap on Bobst Group/Armor Lux. Bernard Stamm must be looking over his shoulder every two seconds.
Further to the north Tim Kent on Everest Horizontal has regained second place in Class 2 from Derek Hatfield on Spirit of Canada. For a while his easterly position was paying huge dividends, but then the wind died and Kent was left wondering if the weather maps had lied. He took a bold move, forsaking his easterly position by heading southwest to consolidate with the rest of his class, and in doing so sailed back into the breeze. His longer waterline didn't hurt his performance, and by daybreak this morning he was back in second.
While most of Class 2, with the exception of John Dennis on Bayer Ascensia, who seems to find his own private light spots, are locked in a close race, Brad van Liew on Tommy Hilfiger freedom America is streaking out in front and extending his lead with each position report. This is much the same as Bernard Stamm was doing at the front of Class 1, so it will be interesting to see if Brad manages to avoid giving it all back once he reaches the doldrums. They are a long way off yet and a lot can happen.
In the next 24 hours the Class 1 boats, with the exception perhaps, of Graham Dalton on Hexagon, should be through the doldrums in into the trade winds of the southern hemisphere. Dalton has opted for a westerly position having spied a wind corridor to the west which he hopes will get him back in touch with the leaders. Sometime in the next day Bernard Stamm will cross the equator and become the first boat to enter the other side of the world. We should not forget Bruce Schwab on Ocean Planet who started late from England and stopped in Bayona with the Class 2 boats. Bruce left Spain a day after his Class 2 friends and has slowly made his way through the fleet. He is now ahead of all the Class 2 boats with the exception of Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America.
Positions at 0600, 29/10/2002