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21 October 2004, 03:18 pm
Boat Speed Suffers in the Doldrums
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Global Challenge 2004/5
Portsmouth GBR - Buenos Aires

Just a few degrees north of the equator, the court of King Neptune looms large for the teams as Samsung continue their remarkable performance and consolidate their lead by 26nm.
They pulled away from Barclays Adventurer yesterday afternoon and haven't looked back since, extending their lead and recording the highest 24-hour run, the highest average speed over 24-hours and one of the highest average speeds since the last poll!

There seems to be a concertina effect developing; a common pattern in offshore races as differing weather systems at either end of the fleet cause gains and losses that eventually counteract each other. At present the trailing yachts have fallen off the lead again with Team Stelmar and Team Save the Children in particular starting to feel the effects of the doldrums as their boat speeds drop.

SAIC La Jolla, who were contesting the lead yesterday morning, and BG SPIRIT, realised that the south-east trade wind is more southerly than would be expected - it would usually come from further east.

After making a move east as a result to achieve a more effective sailing angle across the wind without having to sail west of the rhumb line, SAIC La Jolla changed their mind and tacked back. BG SPIRIT, however, has continued east and will be hoping to stay ahead of Imagine It. Done after their tactical shift is completed.

As it stands, Imagine It. Done. has a more favourable wind angle and recorded a considerably higher average speed since the last poll (the highest of the fleet incidentally).

SAIC La Jolla, on the other hand, is now 62nm behind the lead after a frustrating night, as skipper Eero LEHTINEN described in his audio interview this morning.

Barclays Adventurer (second), VAIO (third) and BP Explorer (forth) are being forced west by the south-easterly breeze, and if the wind does not move round to the east as forecasted on the race viewer, they will be forced to tack to stay on their desired course.

The place to be at the moment, according to Cal TOMLINSON, Challenge Business' sailing manager, apart from on Matt RIDDELL's yacht of course, is to the east, just where Duggie GILLESPIE and the crew of Spirit of Sark are currently lying. They could soon move up as far as second place if they maximise the advantage of their easterly position.

After speculating about the extent to which the crews will feel the effect of the doldrums, boat speeds have plummeted across the board since yesterday afternoon and they have arrived in the much-maligned ITCZ (Intertropical Convergence Zone). The doldrums, as the ITCZ is also known, normally lie about 5º north of the equator. After the South Atlantic high moved into an unusually northern position for this time of year, we saw the trade winds from the north-east and south-east converge. This brought with it the possibility of the doldrums being a non-event.

However, the South Atlantic high has now moved back towards its traditional position further south, so the distance to the Azores high (in the North Atlantic) has subsequently increased and caused the trade winds to separate. This has left the teams in a band of light winds between the two, or the doldrums in other words!
Dan Wedgewood (As Amended by ISAF)
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