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10 April 2005, 04:18 pm
In The Doldrums
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Oryx Quest 2005

While Brian THOMPSON (GBR) and his crew enjoy their first full day back on dry land, the remaining boat in the Oryx Quest 2005 is wobbling slowly north. At the 0700 hours GMT poll on Sunday morning Daedalus was barely moving, caught in the grip of the doldrums.
In the last 24-hours they have covered just 78 miles. Between 1500 and 1900 boat time on Saturday Daedalus advanced 2.75 miles and between midnight and 0500 boat time Sunday they covered a staggering 4.7 miles.

The whiplash must be incredible as the crew eke every tenth of a knot out of the boat. Their current position is 250 miles due west of the Maldives, 300 miles north of the equator. If the passage made by Doha 2006 is anything to go by, the calm conditions currently being experienced by Daedalus may just be the start of a long, slow and frustrating final push to the finish for Tony BULLIMORE (GBR) and his team. To make it worse, it is a basic fact of life that as soon as the first boat is finished, the dynamic on board quickly changes. The crew know that their competition is enjoying the spoils of life on land while you stare at another plate of freeze dried mush.

On board Daedalus BULLIMORE is reflective about their current situation and voiced his thoughts in his Saturday log. 'We all thought it was too good to be true to keep moving at the speeds we were when we were so close to the equator,' he wrote. 'We have now crossed over and are once again in the Northern Hemisphere and now sailing, very slowly, into the Doldrums. Over the next eight to ten hours we are going to have very little wind, but we are hoping that the wind will strengthen and we will start to move along at good speeds. It is a fact that when you have been doing so many miles at speeds of around 25 knots, when you drop down to four to six knots you really feel that you are glued to the water. At the moment, with the sun blazing down onto the boat and the sea almost glassy, very still, we are now going along at around eight to ten knots, a little more in keeping for our speed machine. It may not be very big numbers, but if push comes to push, 24 hours of ten knot sailing is still around another 250 miles off of the distance we have to go to the finishing line.'

The doldrums are often the most difficult part of an around-the-world voyage not only because of the lack of wind, but because when the wind does blow it usually blows too hard. The tepid air around the boat hangs listlessly with dark squalls the only promise of breeze. The squalls can either blow or suck. If they blow, there is a sudden volatile increase in wind and rain and the boat takes off like a mad machine carving deep tracks in the rain spattered ocean. Sometimes, however, the squalls suck the air out of the system leaving just a torrential downpour. The rain comes down thick and heavy, the drops splattering on the water churning it white and drenching the boat and sails. Those are the squalls where the crew rush for buckets and bar of soap and wash away a week of sweat and grime. There is nothing more pleasant than the feeling of a tropical downpour pounding on your back and shoulders while the warm water eases the tension in your neck that builds up after nine weeks of constant sailboat racing.

BULLIMORE has seen these conditions before. He knows that there is very little one can do about them other than to take it one watch at a time. The days are for lazing around and taking a break from the rigours of racing the boat as BULLIMORE described in the rest of his log. 'l have filled my plastic bottle with fresh water and added some Drinkmaster Orange flavouring,' he wrote, 'and l am now going up to the bowsprit netting to lay out and relax for a while, maybe do a little reading, and no doubt, get some very pleasant sleep. One thing for sure, it is important to keep oneself covered, because the sun is really blazing down and it would not be to hard to end up like a roast turkey.'

BULLIMORE also sent THOMPSON and his crew a message of congratulations on their fine victory. ''Congratulations to Brian THOMPSON and his crew on Doha 2006 for winning the Oryx Quest Round the World Race today,' he wrote, and then added, 'they have done a great job.' At the 0700 hours GMT poll Daedalus had 1,724 miles to go to the finish in Doha.

Brian Hancock (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Doha 2006 at the finish:© Quest International Sports
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