Groupama’s lead of more than 70 nautical miles slowly dissolved after the five boats still racing to Abu Dhabi entered the infamous region best known for light wind and squalls. At 1300 UTC on Friday, overall leaders Telefónica were leading the fleet, CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand trailed by eight nm in second place and Groupama were 31nm behind in third.
Telefónica and CAMPER separated from the fleet to pursue stronger wind. The pair’s venture paid off with their average boat speeds reaching 15 knots and 13 kts respectively, while Groupama floundered with an average of eight knots. Telefónica’s navigator, Australian Andrew Cape, said he was happy both with his team’s current position and planned exit strategy for the Doldrums.
“It’s been pretty pleasant sailing constantly moving along at more than 15 knots, we’re very close to CAMPER, which is comforting in a way because we can keep an eye on them,’’ he said. “But the race is far from won, I’m confident I’ve made the right choice, but a lot of it comes down to who can exit the Doldrums in good shape and be the first to reach a westerly on the other side.”
The remainder of the fleet has compressed as predicted, with PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG trailing by 72 nm in fourth position and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing reducing their deficit from 170 nm to 117 nm. PUMA skipper Ken Read said Leg 2 continued to be frustrating, with a front his team had banked their hopes on moving from its predicted position.
Read said he expected the lead to continue to change hands, especially as his team’s current routing has the fleet finishing within nine minutes of each other.
“It’s the ultimate frustration sport right now, where you work your ass off for two weeks but things come crashing down on you in a matter of moments,’’ he said. “That’s what happened to us today and that’s what’s happened to Groupama. I really feel for them because they had a really nice lead.”
The slow trekking has guaranteed the fleet an offshore Christmas. For Read, that means his Christmas Day feast will continue to be his usual peanut butter and jelly wraps, sourced from his secret stash.
“I’m not a huge fan of freeze dried so I just go around the world on peanut butter and jelly,” he said. “I would say there’s just about a 100 per cent chance that I will be eating peanut butter and jelly on Christmas. It won’t be as good as my wife’s and mum’s turkey dinner, but it’s going to do.’’
Team Sanya’s sailing crew are also making Christmas plans, with most flying home to their loved ones. Skipper Mike Sanderson is en route to his New Zealand home, where he will spend Christmas with his wife Emma and children Amelia and Merrick. The team’s shore crew are continuing to effect repairs to their damaged rigging at Madagascar.