Please select your home edition
GJW Direct 2020

BT Challenge fleet hits the Doldrums

by Betsy Crowfoot, Quokka Sports on 4 Nov 2000
“The majority of the fleet are parked in a car park to the northeast
of us. They must feel wretched watching the Kiddies sneaking by to
the southwest,” ribbed Save the Children skipper Nick Fenton, from
just above the equator.

The BT Global Challenge 2000/01 fleet has hit the doldrums –- an area
notorious for erratic air, where huge gains and losses occur. The
leaderboard shows it, with a mix-up of biblical proportions: "The last shall
be first, and the first last." Quadstone, for some time in second place, has
slipped to ninth -- meanwhile VERITAS, which had been ninth, is now
second. TeamSpirIT, which snuck up with the frontrunners during the
week, is currently 10th. One-time trailer Spirit of Hong Kong has inched up
to sixth.

For the 12 boats racing from Boston, U.S. to Buenos Aires, Argentina,
crossing the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) has been a
long-dreaded milestone in the 5,840-mile leg. Although each team has
painstakingly surveyed weather forecasts and data to select the best route
through this patch of frail air, many have still been snared.

“Well today was the day that we finally slowed right up,” announced Andy
Lomas, from aboard Logica. “The trade winds have died on us and we have
a combination of squalls, light airs and sloppy seas.”

“Just as we were about to take our position at the leaderboard we were
reminded of the cruelties of ocean racing,” said BP’s Stephen Breen.
“Trucking along at a great angle, clocking up the miles, and next thing we
hit a hole right smack in the middle of the Atlantic. No wind. Our green
machine came to a eerie standstill.”

“We're slowly making our way south to the equator,” added BP legger
Nancy Doyle. “We're about four degrees north and the wind is very
variable. It is frustrating at times to be bobbing out here waiting for wind,
but we are slowly making progress.”

“We woke up this morning to see TeamSpirIT a couple of miles away on
our port side,” Breen continued, “so the race is still on. The priority now is
to get the boat moving again.”

“This is classic doldrums,” exclaimed John Keating, Race Headquarters
manager and past Challenge racer. “Boats within a relatively short
distance are getting totally different weather –- it happens with boats within
sight of each other!”

“If you take away the first and the last boats, the remaining 10 are within
70 miles of each other. After 3,000 miles of racing, that’s pretty exciting!”

But it’s also “frustrating” reminded Spirit of Hong Kong skipper Stephen
Wilkins. “It requires persistence and patience and these can be hard to
muster when the temperatures are high, the humidity up and boat speed

“Winds varying from as high as eight knots down to none at all has kept
myself and the crew on their toes. We have sailed, at times, to every point
on the compass. We have tacked, then tacked back again. Everything
done slowly and controlled in order to keep the sails full and the yacht
moving wherever possible.”

The 12 yachts chase whatever breeze Neptune musters -- to keep
momentum plus the ability to find better wind.

“We continued to tack frequently for a couple of hours as the fickle wind
stalked us as if we were a trapped animal,” explained Fenton. Maximizing
what breeze they do encounter requires a speedy response. “The slightest
delay in completing a reef or a head sail change means that we lose
benefit from the squall. That means giving places to other boats.”

“Every ounce of wind has to be squeezed out by all of the boats to get an
advantage on the rest of the fleet,” summed Chris Laufale on Norwich

However, Tina Williamson, crewmember on TeamSpirIT, pointed out the
fickle breeze isn’t the only thing affecting position reports. “While we have
moved down to seventh position, and it appears we are on our own, we are
confident our route east is right. We are placing ourselves for the longer
term when we have to go around the top east corner of Brazil.”

Tactics play a pivotal part in the day-to-day changes in place rankings. It
is critical to, “keep close to the tactics of the opponent,” Williamson
admonished. “So we will continue to monitor the fleet and play our game
as best we can.”

Quadstone’s Paul Covell admitted the team, which won Leg One, has
found themselves, “a long way back from the leader.” But planning the
most advantageous point of entering the doldrums has been key. “The
next week will determine whether we have got it right.”

Olympic Group skipper Manley Hopkinson was optimistic that perhaps his
Team Large had “got it right” this time –- especially considering the boat
was last in during Leg One.

“Our long tack southeast, to cross the doldrums where we calculated to
be the best place, had achieved its aim. We are now through.” The bulk of
the fleet, he noted, “charged down the east side enjoying the trades for
two days after we hit the light stuff. The fleet concentrated as expected
and Large were 9th. But then they stopped!

Continued Hopkinson, “We still had the breeze and within 12 hours, we
find ourselves in second place!”

Ah, but that too can change.

“The first out of the doldrums will have an advantage,” predicted Boyle.
“We are sailing as fast as we can so that it will be us. It will be almost like
a restart of the race.”

Added Breen, “I've a sneaking suspicion that each place will be fought for
to the end --right to the dock on the River Plate in downtown Buenos

Related Articles

Vendée Globe Day 17: It's not usually like this
Dalin fighting for metres, Davies, Burton break South Charlie Dalin, Vendée Globe leader since yesterday morning, confirmed that he is in full 'inshore mode, fighting for every metre I can gain,' as he tries to break through to the southern ocean low pressure train.
Posted today at 6:21 pm
Mirabaud Yacht Racing Image of the Century
French photographer Gilles Martin-Raget announced as the winner The international jury decided to honour the French photographer Gilles Martin-Raget and his image of the Orma 60 Fujifilm II trimaran, taken during the Course des Phares 2002.
Posted today at 6:09 pm
RYA welcomes return of grassroots sport in England
Back on in all tiers, including in highest risk areas with some mitigations The RYA has today welcomed the UK Government's COVID-19 Winter Plan, which presents a programme for suppressing the virus, protecting the NHS and the vulnerable, keeping education and the economy going and providing a route back to normality.
Posted today at 4:41 pm
Great gift ideas for sailors at CoastWaterSports
Including Optimist tapered mainsheets, dry bags, D-Splicer kits, toe straps and burgees Including Optimist tapered mainsheets, dry bags, D-Splicer kits, toe straps, burgees, beanies, kit bags and fleeces.
Posted today at 4:00 pm
Golden Horizon set for iconic destinations
'Powered by the Winds of Change' campaign highlights benefits Tradewind Voyages, and its ship Golden Horizon, the largest square-rigged sailing ship in the world, are now on sale. The programme features iconic destinations and rarely visited islands.
Posted today at 3:00 pm
Maxi Edmond de Rothschild postpones departure
Jules Vern team remains on code yellow as another opportunity might well present itself on Thursday Record hunting is not a bed of roses, but the many variables, which have inevitably been part and parcel of life for the Gitana Team and her crew since the start of standby, were known about by one and all before they decided to take on the JVT.
Posted today at 1:13 pm
ORC World Championship 2021 open for entries
In the UNESCO World Heritage city of Tallinn, Estonia Organizers from Kalev Yacht Club and the Offshore Racing Congress (ORC) are pleased to announce the opening of entries to the ORC World Championship 2021 to be held over 6-14 August 2021 in the UNESCO World Heritage city of Tallinn, Estonia.
Posted today at 11:13 am
Vendée Globe Day 17 morning update
Bang, bang, chop, chop, busy, busy, Thomson on the nightshift as Dalin extends lead Overnight only race leader Charlie Dalin (Apivia) is the only skipper among the top 10 to have managed to hold speeds in double figures as the leaders of the Vendée Globe continue their slow but steady progress south.
Posted today at 9:02 am
RYA Affiliated Clubs Conference concludes
More than 1,000 delegates from 400 sailing clubs joined the thought-provoking virtual event HRH The Princess Royal and Sir Ben Ainslie were amongst the key speakers who shared messages of support and applauded the resilience of sailing clubs across the UK at the RYA Affiliated Clubs Conference, this Saturday.
Posted today at 7:04 am
Code Yellow for Maxi Edmond de Rothschild crew
A possible Jules Verne Trophy departure in 24 hours After a long weather briefing carried out remotely with the router Marcel van Triest, the entire crew of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild gathered alongside Cyril Dardashti, director of the five-arrow team, has taken the decision to switch to code yellow.
Posted today at 6:04 am