It is a case of once bitten, twice shy for Groupama sailing team as they lead the fleet in the race to the equator and the Doldrums with great trepidation.
“All the traps promised in the brochure are waiting for the first boat and our friends behind us, even though they are quite far away, know these traps are there. They won’t give us any gifts." - Groupama navigator Jean-Luc Nélias
The windless Doldrums chewed up and spat out the French team during Leg 1 and Leg 2 and they’ve not forgotten that bitter experience, according to navigator Jean-Luc Nélias.
Nélias has been sweating for days ahead of Saturday’s expected Doldrums crossing, despite predictions that this transition zone, which runs south east from the Solomon islands, is unlikely to cause significant delays.
“Right now we are living happy hours,” Nélias said. “We are closer to the finish in a favourable position to windward of the fleet.
“But we are once again sailing towards the Doldrums with islands like mountains in the sea and risks of wind shadows and squalls.
“All the traps promised in the brochure are waiting for the first boat and our friends behind us, even though they are quite far away, know these traps are there. They won’t give us any gifts.
“First leg, we were behind and we had a terrible Doldrums, when they got bigger on us. Second leg, we were first and controlling the fleet when we got stuck and they sailed past us. We would like the situation to be different for our third Doldrums."
Second-placed PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG skipper Ken Read reckons Groupama have a good shot of escaping the Doldrums unscathed, and so does his own team.
“The Doldrums here don’t look to be as ominous as Doldrums in other places,’’ he said.
It’s a sentiment that fourth placed Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing skipper Ian Walker echoed. Walker believes that the eastern teams of the fleet, Groupama, PUMA and Abu Dhabi, have the upper hand.
“Our spot to the east allows us to sail more open angles when we want to and if the routing needs us to go east we could,” he said.
But anything could happen, Walker said, especially when the always-threatening overall race leaders Team Telefónica are near by in third position.
“I think we will be able to get ahead of them but they have been steadily digging themselves out of trouble down there,” Walker said. “With a boat like that you can never write them off.”
Fifth-placed CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand continue to regain the ground they lost when they broke their J2 headsail on Tuesday, and Team Sanya remain sixth.
The fleet are expected to cross the equator and pass into the Southern Hemisphere tomorrow morning, March 2.
- 6 Jul 2012Skippers talk it up ahead of final in-port fight
- 13 Apr 2012The big debate - skippers comment on Leg 5 attrition
- 2 Mar 2012Trepidation and anticipation reign as Doldrums loom
- 27 Feb 2012Groupama keep gaining in race for trades
- 4 Nov 2011Volvo Ocean Race fleet heads for first night ordeal
- 9 Oct 2011Fleet returns with lessons learned