Dongfeng still lead the pack as the fleet enters Day 7 of Leg 2 – and the Doldrums are on the horizon, with the fleet expected to arrive there within the next 24-36 hours.
At the 0700 UTC position report, Charles Caudrelier’s team still has the edge, however their 12-mile lead of Day 6 has been slashed in half, with the hunters MAPFRE just 6 miles behind, and Vestas 11th Hour Racing racing with over 2 knots more boat speed than the Chinese campaign.
Vestas navigator Simon Fisher explains: “The game has changed considerably – no longer are we tiptoeing our way south through the rain clouds whilst trying to find the good moments to step west without giving up too much to the boats behind. The trades are blowing hard again. Right now it is a flat out drag race and will continue to be so as we close in on the Doldrums.
“The Islands of the Cape Verdes have passed quickly down our left-hand side today over a hundred miles to our west. Nice for me as a navigator that we don’t have to negotiate the complex accelerations and wind shadows that exist around the islands. I’m sure the rest of the team will appreciate this also as a passage through these islands would have meant lots of gybing and little sleep!”
He added: “Today we have been enjoying a good two boat testing line up with MAPFRE who currently hold a slender lead of only a mile over us. It looks set to continue over night and into tomorrow too providing neither one of us falters. Hopefully sailing in such close quarters we are pushing each other to go faster and work harder. It is a good opportunity for us to learn more about our boat and sails and improve our setup. So far progress has been good. The blue boat vs. the red boat line up is always a good one for me. Both friends and rivals, a race against MAPFRE represents a good bit of Fisher family rivalry with my wife Maria working once again in the Spanish team. For our kids, they can enjoy watching Mummy’s boat vs Daddy’s boat and as long as they are cheering for Daddy’s boat that’s fine with me!”
Meanwhile, Turn the Tide on Plastic’s Stealth Mode experiment didn’t pay off – and Dee Caffari admits she feels ‘deflated’ on Day 7 of Leg 2, with the crew 104 nauticaul miles behind the leaders.
The team activated Stealth Mode – a feature which allows each team to become ‘invisible’ to their rivals for three consecutive position reports – in the early hours of Friday, and when their position was finally revealed at 1900 UTC on Friday, they had lost ground on the front pack.
“It hasn’t really had a good effect,” admitted Dee. “We haven’t continued to gain, in fact we lost out a little bit. It’s frustrating. We’ve got this increasing pressure and the front runners are in it, so they’ve extended a little bit. Soon they’ll get into lighter pressure, so hopefully we’ll compress into the back of that again.”
“It’s a sleigh race now – we’re all reaching along in the same breeze doing the same thing. We just need to sail fast and not give any more away, and wait for the next option, which will probably be in the Southern Hemisphere.”
The tactical approach to the Doldrums continues, with the fleet converging as navigators try to plot the perfect entry point into the ITCZ.
This area around the Equator is a tricky and often frustrating place to sail, which in past editions has let to a complete restart, and the next 24 hours is all about trying to make sure you’re in the right place when you get there.
Leg 2 – Position Report – Saturday 11 November (Day 7) – 07:00 UTC
1. Dongfeng Race Team -- distance to finish – 3,745.80 nautical miles
2. MAPFRE +6.2
3. Vestas 11th Hour Racing +7.4
4. team AkzoNobel +24.0
5. Team Brunel +28.8
6. Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag +91.4
7. Turn the Tide on Plastic +104.6