Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and Team Brunel emerged as the clear winners from the great Doldrums lottery to take a firm grip on Leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race on Wednesday. While the rest of the seven-strong fleet were left some 90 miles plus in their wake, searching for the gusts which would finally propel them back into contention, skippers Ian Walker (GBR-Abu Dhabi) and Bouwe Bekking (NED-Team Brunel) were powering clear towards the island of Fernando. They still have just over half the 6,487 nautical miles to complete the opening leg between Alicante and Cape Town but the experienced pair already look to have made this a two-boat sprint to the finish at the V & A Waterfront in Cape Town come the first week of November.
On the other hand, as all the boats have already discovered, fortunes can swiftly change in the Volvo Ocean Race. Around 1000 GMT on Wednesday, Abu Dhabi held a thin, 7.6 nautical mile lead over the Dutch boat with Team Vestas Wind leading the chasing pack 86.4 miles behind with Dongfeng Race Team just behind them. Team Alvimedica, MAPFRE and Team SCA were some 25 miles further adrift, tussling for the minor positions.
For Team SCA’s British navigator Libby Greenhalgh, it was a particularly frustrating night after the women closed a large gap on the rest of the fleet of around 75 miles by Tuesday only to fall back again once they too hit the Doldrums. Bekking, the 51-year-old Brunel skipper who is competing in the Race for a record-equalling seventh time, knows all about the frustrations of trying to ‘race’ through the Doldrums when the winds and fates seem stacked against you – or rather are just not there. He says that the only secret is to keep calm and rely on your strategy, “Believing in your game plan is crucial in this race. Throwing the dice we hate. We prefer to act on facts and figures. But then I can reflect as well that sometimes ‘luck’ is with you and sometimes against. But in the end it will even out. It also helps to have a navigator on board with the towering experience of Andrew Cape (AUS), as Bekking does, or Simon Fisher (GBR) on Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.
Photo credit: Amory Ross/Team Alvimedica/Volvo Ocean Race