48. Don’t Bring Me Down

I finally found the picture of me bandaged up (refer back to Post 45) and it’s this header. To be in the Doldrums can mean to be low or depressed. As both MBB are away for the best part of a year many people expect me to be in this flat place. I’m actually enjoying the novelty of eating when I feel the need and popping out to a museum or random cafe when I fancy it and seeing lots of friends as London is easier to get to than Somerset (or so they tell me). I’m treating the year as a series of business trips. I’ll probably be seeing George more often than when we’re all in the UK. Possibly I’m just a hermit or recluse by nature, although (unlike some people we could name) I’m not neglecting my personal hygiene nor stockpiling my waste or throwing it over the side of the flat.

Before I get to the meat of this post, I forgot to tell you that, if you’re eagle-eyed, you can find Jane and me at the Portimao wine tasting on the Clipper website, well spotted Julia! Note that Jane is not holding a wine glass (but she did have one). https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/news/article/crew-explore-the-sights-and-tastes-of-the-beautiful-algarve

Shot from Clipper website

…and on Facebook Live, in the 18 minute video showing the fleet leaving Portimao on 15th September, a brief interview with George. https://www.facebook.com/ClipperRaceLIVE/videos/516330142456305/

Enough frivolity. Today is a technical blog post. Another definition of being in the Doldrums is to make no progress. This could be happening to the fleet in the next day or two.

Race Viewer

They are just out of the picture here at about 08.10 Thursday 19th. The screenshot of the Race Viewer shows the Scoring Gate that they are all racing towards, the Ocean Sprint and, in the middle, the Doldrums Corridor. In case you’ve forgotten (or I forgot to tell you), the white line is the shortest distance between start and finish, known as the rhumb line. The dark blue wavy bit in the centre is (are?) the actual Doldrums. The darker the blue, the less likelihood of wind so VERY calm. The area is also referred to as the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone or ITCZ (pronounced itch).

As you can see, this band goes all around the world either side of the equator, but for this race we’re only interested in the bit between Africa and South America. Put simply, the northern (red in the slide above) and southern (blue) trade winds clash and effectively cancel each other out. Remembering the last day or two of race 1, where the leaders (Qingdao and Unicef) ended up third and sixth due to lack of wind, we may be waiting a long time for them to cross this part of the world. In a past Clipper race some boats were stuck for four days. We may even get fed up with checking Race Viewer!

The race has a reasonably tight arrival window so we can’t just leave them to wallow around on their own without cleaning their teeth or showering or changing their underwear. They cannot avoid the Doldrums. Clipper have therefore defined an area over which the fleet can elect to use their motors.

There are strict rules though. The Skipper has to tell HQ he’s going to do this at least three hours beforehand. They can only motor for a maximum 6 degrees of latitude (roughly 400 miles) and must stop motoring at 03 degrees North (just above the Equator). They have to send a photo of their position when the motor was started and when stopped to show that they’ve gone the 6 degrees. If it takes less than 60 hours they have to hang around and cannot start racing again until the 60 hours are up, possibly having to go back to where they stopped the motor. Thus, if the wind picks up, they may have been better off sailing. They can’t change their mind once they’ve said they’re going to use the motor.

Here endeth today’s lesson. If you’re looking at the Race Viewer (and who isn’t?) you may be confused as to who is in the lead. You need to take into account how far away from the rhumb line they are as they’ll need to get back there at the end. If you’re reading the Skipper and Crew Diaries on the Clipper website you’ll see how they are getting on. It’s interesting reading them all, not just “ours” as they are all having different experiences. Some are interested in wildlife, some (most) in the food on board, some give details of the issues they’ve encountered. Talking of food, here’s what I had for my first “proper” meal in Portimao (after the room service sandwich on arrival).

Ooh, Friday morning and Ha Long Bay Viet Nam has deployed Stealth Mode. This means that for the next 24 hours we won’t know where exactly she is and neither will the rest of the fleet (she hopes). They must have a plan to beat the others to the Scoring Gate. Once through the Scoring Gate her position will become public. Stay tuned!

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