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Day 78 - The Doldrums Deal

  • Virbac-Paprec 3 accelerates clear of the Doldrums

  • Yo-yo place changing in the Peloton

  • FMC approach Cape Horn


Whoever deals the cards for the Doldrums seems to have made sure Barcelona World Race leaders Virbac-Paprec 3 got the tough hand, MAPFRE got one to work with, and for the chasing peloton – the 3 Musketeers, a special preview of Doldrums type conditions some 700 miles early.

Speaking today after Virbac-Paprec 3 had spent most a morning back sailing at double figures speeds, the release of tension was evident in the voice of the French skipper, who maintains that between the combined experiences of  co-skipper Loïck Peyron and himself, they could not recall a more painful Doldrums passage.

Of course the grass is always greener, but his observation that the MAPFRE pair, Iker Martinez and Xabi Fernandez have rarely slowed below 9 knots has a certain ring of truth to it and the Spanish duo now have a margin that certainly gives them hope for the final 3100 miles to Barcelona.

“ In fact looking at the models we thought MAPFRE would stop in the Doldrums but they seem to have carried on through at nine knots. The models show different things.”

Dick declared today. “ I don’t want to talk about strategy just now because we know that our rivals listen in, but we will be fighting with the knives in our teeth, giving it everything.”

“We had some bad luck with the Doldrums going back up with us, effectively giving us it three times. Once we had a zone where it was not supposed to be, around where we saw the whale. In fact we picked up the Doldrums at about 3 deg S and it came with us.”

The numbers remain slightly skewed by the fact that Virbac-Paprec 3 have been sailing a course west of north effectively away from the direct, rhumb line course to the finish, while MAPFRE have been slower but on a more direct route. But as of this evening the two courses are much more aligned and a clearer idea of the exact differential will emerge progressively. In strict distance to finish terms MAPFRE are only 120 miles behind, but straight line distance, as the seagull flies, is more line 250 miles.


MAPFRE were due to pass the Equator this afternoon, and should be clear of the last effects of their Doldrums-lite  by 01N.

As they emerged from the Doldrums this morning Virbac-Paprec 3 were about 516 miles behind the position of Paprec-Virbac 2 in the first edition of the Barcelona World Race on the equivalent Day 77 of racing.

This course is longer but despite the two days stop in Wellington and 18 hours in Recife, it seems that Virbac-Paprec 3 might still be close to finishing their course in something close to the same elapsed time as the first edition, which was some 92 days and 9 hours and 49 minutes, which would be around 2nd April.

Behind them it seems like a Doldrums preview for the threesome Renault Z.E Sailing Team, 135 miles ahead of Neutrogena who have regained fourth again this afternoon from Estrella Damm. The breezes have been light, shifty and very variable for the top two of this group, especially latterly for Estrella Damm which has slumped in just hours from being the fleet’s fastest to the fleet’s slowest, averaging just 4,2kts this afternoon.

While this trio struggle with a narrow frontal transition, their escape on the other side is only into light headwinds, but there does then seem to be a small recompense on the horizon in that the Doldrums are becoming progressively more organised and significantly narrower.

And approaching Cape Horn this evening Gerard Marin,29, is set to be the fleet’s youngest first time Cape Horner due to pass around 0100hrs UTC Sunday morning.

Standings of Saturday 19th March at 1400hrs

1              VIRBAC-PAPREC 3 at 2986,7 miles to the finish

2              MAPFRE at 120,9 miles to the leader

3              RENAULT Z.E at 813,4 miles

4              NEUTROGENA at 948,3 miles

5              ESTRELLA DAMM Sailing Team at 959 miles

6              GAES CENTROS AUDITIVOS at 2137 miles

 7              HUGO BOSS at 3480,8 miles

8              FORUM MARITIM CATALA at 4054,6 miles

9              WE ARE WATER at 5916,4 miles

10            CENTRAL LECHERA ASTURIANA at 8563,6 miles

RTD         FONCIA




Alex Pella (ESP) Estrella Damm:“The last three days have been very good, sailing well, easy to steer and at night you could see the waves perfectly, easy miles – almost free. You are really grateful to get north. Now we are surrounded by clouds, the sky is overcast and we have headwinds which have dropped from seven knots to four knots. The future is not so promising. These overcast skies are like a cork in the bottle. Early this morning we were still going well, but on the weather files you can see this front from Brasil down all the way into the Atlantic. It looks like we will get out around 15S and at the moment we are at 15.35S so we should have about 35 miles, we will see how we get out of this.

The expression small boats, small problems is right, the change from the Mini you notice of course in the race, but also the preparation and everything. The Mini has a weight of one tonne, this has a weight of nine tonnes, everything is bigger. The Mini is like a model compared to this one.

The calms are difficult, it is hard to deal with. You have to move the weight, change sails, putting the sails up and down. And now we are going into the clouds with 20 degrees of wind shifts and different wind strengths.

We had 50 days of racing which were great, until New Zealand when the problems took us out from the race, calms and Atu, it was very complicated to get back into the racing rhythm and be fully concentrated. The morale goes up and now drive and motivation is right up when you are in contact with other boats. We had a very good first half, we will see from here to the finish if we can catch up a bit more.

At this moment we have other things to be worried about, how we get through calms, but we will be going at 100%. The differences with Renault will be down to the conditions. They can get parked and we can keep going, or vice versa. It’s down to the conditions. Probably they will be looking in the rear view mirror, we have sailed quite a lot together, so it is curious that we might end up together, but our strategy is just to sail fast to the best places.

We have to think about how abused the boats area, and what everyone is lacking. There will be conditions when we will not be able to go 100% and this will influence everybody else.”

Jean-Pierre Dick (FRA) Virbac-Paprec 3: “It is relief to be out of there, it was three and a half long hard days knowing that were losing miles every day. It is not easy to remain very serene, especially after three days of calm with winds between 0 and 5 knots, a little swell and the showers, all of that. It was three and a half days which were difficult to manage.

Now we are hoping that the breeze will lift us a progressively because it feels like an odd course we are on, a bit headed. So we are hoping it will lift us through the day. And it is what we were discussing together with Loïck yesterday that neither of us remember a Doldrums crossing like this one. We had some bad luck with the Doldrums going back up with us, effectively giving us it three times. Once we had a zone where it was not supposed to be, around where we saw the whale. In fact we picked up the Doldrums at about 3 deg S and it came with us.

Now we have used a big part of our lead that we had on MAPFRE, so hopefully our luck will be better from here. We will see how it goes, I just can’t tell. In fact looking at the models we thought MAPFRE would stop in the Doldrums but in fact they seem to have carried on at nine knots. The models show different things.

I don’t want to talk about strategy just now because we know that our rivals listen in, but we will be fighting with the knives in our teeth, giving it everything.

Dominique Wavre (SUI) Mirabaud:“We have less than 15 miles to get in. Our final night went well under the jury rig, but this morning we rested it and gave over to the engine and are now heading to Mar del Plata with the wind and swell coming from ahead. So we are not going very quickly.

I don’t regret sacrificing the small spinnaker as it allowed us to make 5-6 knots. What helped us a lot was the Argentinian Navy which was extraordinary. Because they gave us fuel we could carry on making water and to use the autopilot, to have an almost normal life thanks to them. To see them was great moment, with the plane flying overhead and the pilot called us. He has just sent us a message of support on Facebook. We have so many people who has sent their good wishes, and it is just astonishing to see that with these communication means today. In terms of morale that has really helped us. Michèle was a bit better when the dismasting happened. She could help on the deck but did not have much energy. Now she is with me at my side and is feeling better.

The prospect of a good Argentinian steak and some red wine is a good comfort. To get the boat back to La Rochelle is a bit complicated. At Mar del Plata there is only the Argentinian Navy and so we will need to get the boat to Montevideo under the jury rig.

We need to get Michèle a proper medical check, maybe in Mar del Plata we will be able to change crew, but I am very attached to the boat. There are a couple of things to be done on board and getting the keel off is not easy. But at the moment the agenda is to get to Mar del Plata, a shower, good steak, red wine and a few good hours of sleep. We have been shaken like plums from a tree.”

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