On Sunday night, The Ocean Race Europe fleet dipped into the Doldrums and is now swapping “champagne sailing in the trade winds”, as Pit Anne-Claire Le Berre of GUYOT environnement – Team Europe called it, for the game of patience in the calm wind zone around the equator. Slowed abruptly the Imocas are now trying to drift south as fast as possible to get into the south-east trade wind and pick up speed again.
“We really enjoyed sailing downwind in the trades. With gybing on the big shifts we tried to push south as much as we can, not taking too much risk compared to the fleet, which invested more in the west,” reported skipper Robert Stanjek, and navigator Sébastien Simon explained the strategy: “We want to stay close to the fleet, but on the inside position. That’s why we set a lot of gybes. The trade winds were a bit capricious, so we had to jibe all the time.”
At 27.40 degrees west, GUYOT environnement – Team Europe dipped into the Doldrums as the most easterly boat and switched from light gennaker A2 to big genoa J0. “We managed some rain clouds and randomly drifts in the night. There is a little swell and when the breeze stops completely the slamming of the sails is annoying. Now we are making good progress with 5 kn in a good direction,” Stanjek said. The crew is, however, troubled by the heat, which becomes extreme on the black boat. The heat is also intensified by the engine, which has to keep running to generate energy for the batteries. Due to large fields of seaweed, the hydrogenerator can hardly be used for this at the moment.
Despite the calm winds, there is hardly any time to relax on board: “We are working the boat south with precise trimming. Let’s see how many days it will take us to cross the Doldrums,” says Stanjek. The wind forecast suggests long leg on starboard in the coming days. Therefore, the weight trim on board was adjusted to this with the shifting of all bags and sail bags. “It was a big effort for the whole crew, but we handled it well,” said bowman Phillip Kasüske, then took the chance to get some sleep in his off watch.