Andrew from Dream Or Two Sailing has been closely following the offshore racing that is taking place at the moment…
It is good at this time of year to maintain an interest in ocean racing when the mornings are dark and wet. A morning routine of tracking progress of favourites and following tactical moves is always exciting and for a few moments transports the mind out to sea!
This year we are spoilt for choice, three races are currently progressing, with the Clipper Round the World Race for amateur crews having just left Cape Town, en route to Western Australia, in their identical 70’ one design yachts. Then there is also the Mini Transat Race, which is a solo race from the Canaries to Guadeloupe in the Caribbean for 6.5 metre yachts. Then there is also the Transat Jacques Vabre Race, which is from France to Brazil. The latter is 5,400 miles in length and of course we have an interest in one of the participants, namely Concise 2, a class 40 yacht of similar vintage to Fortissimo. As they sail south, they have to cross the doldrums, which is a band of very light winds from 5 -10 degrees North between Brazil and Western Africa, spanning an area of about 300 miles. The key to approaching this windless zone is to line correctly to transit at the narrowest part to get into the South East trade winds of the South Atlantic as soon as possible.
However, the dilemma is to go to the Western edge, which is the narrower band of this channel of light wind, allowing a smaller area to cross, but when out the other side, you have to fetch on port as you enter the South East Trades and, therefore, not a great wind angle for reaching or using your downwind sails. The alternative is to go down the Eastern side, close to Africa, where the doldrums are wider, but does afford a better wind angle to use downwind sails, reaching spinnakers once you get to the other side. However, the band is changing daily.
For this race it is evident the Eastern side has been more favoured, which is unusual, though this is ocean racing! As a navigator in the Whitbread Round the World Race in 1989, enroute from the UK to Uruguay, we committed to the Eastern side of the doldrums, which, although afforded us a good reaching angle down to the South American coast, did take seven or eight days to transit. However, those that went to the West had a very quick transit and, therefore, exited quicker and into the more stable trade winds. I urge you to log on to the various websites covering these races, as it is a veritable daily distraction to follow and see how one’s favourites are progressing, or not, and, indeed, brings a ray of virtual sunlight to the summer days of sailing in these dark days of November.
Follow the race here… Transat Jaques Vabre tracker
Follow Phillippa and Pip on Concise 2 here. Some great blogs