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Picking the sweet spot in the Doldrums

It’s a moment of truth in the Transpacific Yacht Club’s 13th Tahiti Race or any race across the equator: looking for the sweet spot in the Doldrums.

“Big day today,” Ragtime skipper Chris Welsh wrote Wednesday. “Lots of miles and a decision to jibe and turn south.”

Then this from Ernie Richau, navigator on Doug Baker’s Magnitude 80: “We have been approaching a critical part of the race, the point where we decide to head south. It is important because this is the point where we are setting ourselves up for crossing the [Intertropical Convergence Zone (a.k.a. “Doldrums”) on the equator]. This morning we continued to be lifted by the wind until it looked like the appropriate time for us to make our move. After studying the 12:26 position report it appears that Rags has also jibed toward the south while Medicine Man has continued to the west.”

Ragtime had jibed about the time of the 6 a.m. PDT position report, Mag 80 about four hours later, as Bob Lane’s Medicine Man continued west until making its move south at about 4 p.m.

Fortaleza, Jim Morgan’s Santa Cruz 50, was east of the others in a more northerly breeze. The smallest of the four boats in the race executed a non-committal 30-degree jibe at about 6 p.m. shortly after crossing the rhumb line.

As Richau indicated, Mag 80’s hand was forced by a breeze lifting it north that caused it to lose 11 miles in distance-made-good-toward-the-finish to Ragtime and Fortaleza, despite sailing 5 to 6 knots faster. After jibing south, Mag 80 quickly stretched out again with a 98-mile run in six hours.

But at least two more jibes seemed likely in order to position themselves to cross the doldrums at the narrowest point.

Race communicator David Lee said after studying current weather charts Thursday morning, “I think they all still need to go farther west … maybe to 150 [longitude], about 800 miles.”

Welsh summed it up from Ragtime: “Turn south is a big move, as we are the first of the pack to make the move. We figure we need to get down to the Doldrums area and then make a decision as to when and where to cross. From far north, it’s tough to call what will be happening in four days down there; from a little closer, we can make a dive through when we see the opportunity.”

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This entry was posted on Thursday, June 26th, 2008 at 11:30 am and is filed under Main Stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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