In this so-called inter-tropical convergence zone, both the navigational instruments and the sailors are unable to make head or tail of the situation. Indeed, when the tradewinds of the northern hemisphere meet their counterparts from the south, they cancel each other out leaving a rather unpredictable zone in their wake. In a humid heat, the sailors attempt to make headway between the violent squalls and what becomes a ‘crazy’ wind beneath the massive cumulonimbus. Of varying width and in more or less of a northerly position, the Doldrums are a nightmare for strategists. Solely satellite images give some insight into the density of the cloud and the general activity in the zone. In this way, despite all the digital tools at their disposal, the navigators initially focus on what they can see around them in order to extract themselves from the area as quickly as possible.
Theoretically well placed
There are a few rules for tackling the problem in the right manner however. To start with, the first to enter the Doldrums is often the first to come out the other side. Edmond de Rothschild already holds this particular card. After that, ordinarily the unstable zone is narrower to the west than in the east, near the African coast, which is the case right now. Here too, Sébastien Josse and Charles Caudrelier appear to be well placed. “Even though we’re entering a very random period of the race, we prefer to position the trimaran Edmond de Rothschild between our rival and the western side of the race zone,” Antoine Koch, the router of the boat fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild confirms at midday.
Not simple for all that
Nevertheless, with this particular Doldrums spanning nearly 300 miles in width, as well as being rather active and very far north (from 8degrees north), it’s likely to be a complicated task. “We put in a gybe as a preventative measure to line ourselves up,” Sébastien Josse stated at this morning’s Transat Jacques Vabreradio session. “We should make it into the Doldrums over the course of today and we’ll have to wait and see when we’ll come out the other side, but we hope it will be fairly soon! Sometimes it goes without a hitch and other times there’s a squall which blocks your progress for hours on end.”
Sailing beneath the clouds enables progress to be made towards the exit, even though the wind can go from 5 to 25 knots in a matter of minutes. As such the crews will have the afternoon to familiarise themselves with the situation, but the ‘cloud-hopping’ section will largely be played out by night. “It won’t be easy,” the router continues: “The very big cloud masses will show up on the radar, but it’s on deck that the sailors will get the best handle on the situation. We’ll have to deal with every eventuality as it arises.”
A just-in-time policy
After the first three days of racing in a tough weather system, then the three following days at high speed in the trades, the Edmond de Rothschild duo are keeping control of this thrilling hand-to-hand battle with Oman Air-Musandam.
However, at the midway point in the race, the boats remain very close to one another and a fresh trial is beginning. Indeed, each crew is having to leave part of its fate in the unpredictable hands of the ‘Doldrums’. This will come as added weight on the shoulders of these sailors, who will be constantly wondering whether the other boat is fairing better than them.
Fortunately Sébastien and Charles are attacking this tricky phase in fine fettle. The stability of the wind conditions over the past few days has enabled the duo to adhere to regular watches and allow themselves several two-hour stretches of sleep in a row… Suffice to say that this is the height of the luxury!
Ranking on Wednesday 13 November at 1530 GMT:
- Edmond de Rothschild (Josse-Caudrelier) 2,451.60 miles from the goal / 13.20kt average over 2 hours
- Oman Air-Musandam (Gavignet-Foxall) 78.30 miles behind the leader / 13.90kt average over 2 hours
Note to editors
The Edmond de Rothschild duo
Sébastien Josse, skipper
38 years of age, lives with his partner
6 Solitaire du Figaros, 2 Vendée Globes, 1 Volvo Ocean Race, 1 Jules Verne Trophy
2011, joined the Gitana Team and performed his first tacks on an oceanic multihull
3rd participation in the Transat Jacques Vabre, 1st on a multihull
To find out more about Sébastien Josse: http://www.gitana-team.com/fr/event.page.aspx?eventid=88&category=skippers&page=sebastien_josse_2013.html
Charles Caudrelier, co-skipper
39 years of age, married, two children
8 Solitaire du Figaros, 11 transatlantic races, 1 Volvo Ocean Race
4th participation in the Transat Jacques Vabre, 2nd on a multihull, including 1 victory in 2009 in the Imoca class with Safran
To find out more about Charles Caudrelier: http://www.gitana-team.com/fr/event.page.aspx?eventid=88&category=skippers&page=charles_caudrelier_2013.html
Transat Jacques Vabre
11th edition, celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
Double-handed transatlantic race between Le Havre and Itajaí (Brazil)
5,400 miles to cover over a direct route
4 classes of boat entered (Class40’, Imoca60, Multi50 and MOD70), 44 duos competing
Departure from Le Havre: Thursday 7 November at 1200 GMT
Estimated race time: between 12 and 16 days