The equator has been crossed, the Doldrums have been sailed through, but chasing the competition is a tough task. For GUYOT environnement – Team Europe, the deficit resulting from hours of repairs to the foil system has added up to just under 300 nautical miles on the fourth leg of The Ocean Race. Now it’s a case of waiting for an opportunity and keeping spirits high. That’s where Onboard reporter Gauthier Lebec’s Equator christening came in handy. The team with skipper Benjamin Dutreux, Robert Stanjek, Annie Lush and Sébastien Simon celebrated the moment when the youngest crew member crossed the equator by sea for the first time.
The toll Neptune took on Gauthier Lebec was big. The 29-year-old had to watch as a mighty strand of his hair was surrendered to the sea. Benjamin Dutreux had taken on the task of doing the onboard reporter’s hair, after the whole crew had prepared him mentally for the moment beforehand. Lebec commented on the loss of his hair with gallows humour: “I feel lighter. Fortunately we don’t have a mirror on the Imoca, so I can’t see myself.” The crew assured him that he would look fine. Besides the ceremony, the crew enjoyed watching the sunrise and sunset in the tropical regions.
Meanwhile, the search for sporting silver linings on the horizon is proving more difficult. After initially reducing the gap somewhat as the other teams dipped into the doldrums, it quickly swelled again when GUYOT environnement – Team Europe was slowed down around the equator while the other boats had already reached the trade winds again. Although the doldrums were only slightly pronounced, the competition was flying away.
“None of the boats really stopped. It was all relatively moderate. We only had a lapse once when we did two circles under a big cloud. But apart from that, we made good time through the doldrums with 6 to 8 knots of wind,” reported co-skipper Robert Stanjek. A look at the weather data, however, gives the team few tactical options for the coming 1000 nautical miles: “The course is relatively clear for the next few days. After the Doldrums, we have the trade winds and sail up to the Azores high, where we set a jibe,” explained navigator Sébastien Simon. Only when it comes to the approach to the destination port of Newport, changeable winds announce themselves. But the forecast for that is still too early.
So the crew has no choice but to constantly check the yacht for high-performance. This includes constantly clearing the foils, rudders and hydro generators of seaweed and adjusting the sailing wardrobe to the wind. With the increasing winds, there were therefore numerous changes of headsails and thus a lot of work on the foredeck.
Meanwhile, skipper Benjamin Dutreux slid into the box for the foil to check whether everything was in order with the foil rope after the repair. They are also trying to find out more about the reason for the damage.
The four teams still have about half of the fourth leg to go, and GUYOT environnement – Team Europe is doing everything it can to catch the moment when there is a chance to reduce the gap.