Skip to main content

Battling Calms in the Volvo Race

W1772_SAIL_WEB_BANNERS_700x150
Mapfre recapitulates Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “painted ship upon a painted ocean” midway through Leg 4, from Australia to Hong Kong.

Mapfre recapitulates Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “painted ship upon a painted ocean” midway through Leg 4, from Australia to Hong Kong.

Following the adventure that was Leg 3 through the heart of the Southern Ocean, the seven teams making up the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race must now be dreaming of such wide-open sailing as they ghost along, often within sight of one another, around the mid-point of Leg 4 from Australia to Hong Kong. In recent days, a mere 30 miles or less has typically separated the entire fleet, with less than six miles separating the top three and no one going over 5 knots, if that. Oh, and in addition to there being over 3,000 miles to the finish, it’s hotter than Hades out there.

“It’s probably a really nice, comfortable 50 degrees Celsius downstairs (122 degrees Fahrenheit) and about 47.8 degrees up on deck,” said Vestas 11th Hour Racing’s Phil Harmer. “The sea temperature is 32 degrees (89F). It’s just a pleasure. Even the off-watch guys don’t want to be down below.”

Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag’s Ben Piggott, the youngest sailor in the fleet at just 21 years old, said: “It’s refreshing being able to sit up on deck and not wear five layers of clothes, but at the same time it’s so frustrating because we’re just not going anywhere.”

“Desperation is probably the only word to describe how we feel sailing through these doldrums,” said Mapfre skipper Zabi Fernandez. “Anyway, things are going OK, sailing at speeds around 2 knots and happy when the heading is inside 45 degrees from course. It is the same for all of us, though, so we are trying not to complain too much and try to move forward. But we have to say, these doldrums are being seriously painful.”

Slow boat to China: good times aboard AkzoNobel as the team crawls toward Hong Kong

Slow boat to China: good times aboard AkzoNobel as the team crawls toward Hong Kong

In stark contrast to the fleet’s first encounter with the Doldrums on Leg 2, which proved to be an easy passage with the air rarely if ever completely failing, this time around things went light with a vengeance, leaving the fleet chasing puffs across an often glassy sea.

As things went light, the standings were also thrown into complete disarray and it has become anybody’s race again, the leading boats having been reeled back in by the rest of the fleet. A few days ago, Dongfeng and AkzoNobel managed to separate themselves from the rest of the fleet by following a course that was farther offshore in the vicinity of Melbourne, Australia. But it all proved for naught as first Mapfre and then the rest of the fleet came barreling up from behind as the leaders were the first to lose their wind.

“Everyone’s had their chance at leading in this front pack,” Vestas 11th Hour Racing crewmember Tom Johnson said of the recent racing. “You’ve just got to make the right tactical call, get the right cloud, take the shift and it’s all up for grabs.”

As for Dutch-flagged Team Brunel, at one point it also found itself having to contend with a violent electric storm. “The stable breeze instantly changed, and before we knew it we were becalmed,” skipper Bouwe Bekking said. “Then a huge lightning strike hit, so close the sparks were flying off the mast and runners. Rome [Kirby], who was driving, was lying flat on the deck, just from the shock of the massive sound as well.”

None of the sailors were injured, and miraculously the boat’s electronics survived intact too. Whether the nerves of the sailors across the fleet survive as well over the coming days is an open question. For the latest position reports from the fleet, click here

Tuesday’s position report, in all it agonizingly slow glory…

Tuesday’s position report, in all it agonizingly slow glory…

January 2018

W1772_SAIL_WEB_BANNERS_700x150_V3

Related

05-DSC_0638

Charter: Lake Tahoe

A sail on Lake Tahoe has been on my bucket list since the day I first laid eyes on it, and come hell or high water, I decided I was going to someday charter a boat there. North America’s largest and deepest alpine lake, Tahoe sits at 6,225ft above sea level and straddles the ...read more

East-River-Rapids

Escape from New York Part 1

I was never supposed to take my boat through New York City. After getting sucked backward through the Cape Cod Canal on my way south from Maine, when the speed of the current exceeded the maximum speed of my little electric auxiliary, I wanted nothing to do with Hell Gate and ...read more

LEAD-Celeste-in-the-Tuamotu

A Watermaker Upgrade

As a classic-boat sailor, I’ve long held that simpler is the better. I still think this is true: a simpler boat is cheaper, she has less gadgets to break down and there’s a certain satisfaction in knowing you’re able to handle a bit of discomfort. Thus, for a long time, I sailed ...read more

01-LEAD-IDECsport_180919_032

Sailing Speed Records

Although the 1903 defender of the America’s Cup, Reliance, was deemed a “racing freak”—the boat pushed design rules to their limit and couldn’t be beaten, at least in very specific conditions—designer Nat Herreshoff was nonetheless onto something. A century later, purpose-built ...read more

BVIFeetup

Chartering with Non-sailors

Three tips on managing the madness First-time charterers and first-time sailors aren’t at all the same thing. One group may struggle with beginner chartering issues, like sailing a multihull, catching a mooring or dealing with base personnel. For the other group, though, ...read more

AdobeStock_455372159

A Gulf Stream Crossing at Night

Even the dome of light glowing above the city behind us had disappeared as if swallowed in a gulp by Noah’s whale. The moon was absent. Not a star twinkled overhead. The night was so dark we could have been floating in a pot of black ink. The only artificial lights to be seen ...read more

00-Lead-549215sJL2uLEa

Summer Sailing Programs

Every year, countless parents find themselves navigating the do’s and don’ts of enrolling their children in a summer learn-to-sail program for the first time. While the prospect of getting your kid on the water is exciting, as a sailing camp program director, there are a lot of ...read more

ntm

Notice to Mariners: U.S.A! U.S.A! (Well, sorta…)

Some thoughts on a couple of recent developments on the U.S. racing scene that are more than a little at odds. To start with, congratulations to the US Sailing Team (USST) and its outstanding showing at the 53rd French Olympic Week regatta in Hyeres, France, with not one but ...read more