The Global Ocean Race is in the Doldrums!


Dawn in the Doldrums

The Global Ocean Race teams are mid-Atlantic in their third week of racing. The two lead yachts are approaching the Equator and all are sweating it out in the notorious Doldrums. Was it just a cruel coincidence that one of the yachts passed a ship called Ice Transporter as the crew struggled to find an inch of shade?

The crews navigated their way through the atmospheric highs and lows, experiencing squalls with torrential rains followed shortly by clear skies and no wind. Heavy downpours gave the yachts and sailors a good cleaning after accumulations of red Sahara Dust.

The scenery is consistently dynamic, with Miranda Merron aboard Campagne de France writing: “Yesterday, we saw a waterspout and last night at sunset we were hemmed in on all sides by highly active clouds and we weren’t disappointed with the show – lightning, massive wind shifts and torrential rain, which is always more fun at night!”

Most of the fleet have a hydrogenerator which uses the boats’ motion through the water to turn a small propeller generating power to charge the batteries. This saves the extra weight of carrying diesel, adds a second charging system to the boat as a backup and is obviously environmentally friendly. Unfortunately, some sailors find them annoyingly noisy.

Meanwhile, pioneering EIA’s Eyes of the Ocean programme, the sailors are reporting back on sights they have seen. They were pretty upset about the amount of marine debris they saw in the Mediterranean, such a beautiful sea containing many dolphins but littered with plastic and other debris.

Nick Leggatt holds up the plastic debris which caught on Phesheya-Racing’s starboard rudder

As they travelled down the west coast of Africa, large chunks of polystyrene were seen floating by. A large sheet of plastic caught around Phesheya-Racing’s starboard rudder; the team was able to recover it intact and has stored it aboard for proper disposal in Cape Town.

About 70 miles off the coast, the BSL reported seeing large areas of  heavy oil slicks which the crew assumed came from the eight huge Russian fishing boats operating in the area.

Campagne de France was caught up in the lines of local fisherman about 20 miles from land. Thankfully, the fishermen, who had caught a large shark and a magnificent swordfish, cut the lines and freed the yacht. The sailors then had to carefully weave through a web of other fishing lines and, only a few hundred yards further on, they encountered a huge whale.

Phillippa and Nick, aboard Phesheya-Racing, have reported seeing turtles and lots of dolphins, including a spectacularly acrobatic pod of what they think were spinner dolphins. They also saw a school of tuna in a surface feeding frenzy. At night, the bow-riding dolphins torpedo through the water, glittering magnificently in the phosphorescence. The first whale they saw was probably a sei whale.

Smaller visitors have joined the yachts, including a couple of dragonflies quite far from shore and a little brown bird the size of a sparrow. Every now and then it flew off and came back clutching a moth in its beak.

A seabird snatches a quick rest aboard the Financial Crisis

In the mid-Atlantic, flying fish, terns and storm petrels are the dominant species being spotted at present. The decks and sails are regularly littered with these fish, and two sailors narrowly missed being hit as one flew at them while they relaxed over dinner.

Although far less marine debris is being seen in the mid Atlantic, a white plastic box floated by Phesheya-Racing miles from land. Unfortunately, the sailors don’t have the capacity to routinely pick up debris but they are documenting important evidence of this terrible blight to the marine environment.

Meanwhile, the team mascots are proving to be important participants in the race. Flashy the Whale is made with a piece of cloth from every single student at a school in Mons. They are following the adventures of Conrad Colman and Hugo Ramon aboard Cessna, and Flashy is very important to these sailors as well as playing a key role in educational programmes for children.

Aboard Phesheya-Racing, Pippa Potamus and Monkey are fans of EIA and have been following the antics of Clubby the Seal aboard Financial Crisis. Clubby is experiencing endless adventures during his 30,000 mile odyssey and is a very important member of the crew.

To follow the adventures of Clubby, Flashy, Pippa Potamus and Monkey, as well as the courageous human adventurers in the Global Ocean Race, visit the race website here – the blogs are fascinating and often very amusing.

We look forward to reporting further progress as the yachts cross the Equator and travel towards Cape Town.