Alex Thomson continues his relentless charge south in the 2016 Vendee Globe but he will soon be slowing up as he enters The Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ).
Better known to most as the Doldrums it is the area of light winds where the north east trade winds north of the equator meet the south east trade winds to the south. The area of light winds move around and extends further north or south depending where there is warmer water.
The sailors at the front of the fleet are already starting to experience its effects and max speeds and miles sailed in 24hrs have started to drop. Ideally the boats would be place further west to pass through at the thinnest point of light wind but that would take the boats to far in miles and to close to the coast of South America. So to sail the shortest Great Circle route the boats have to traverse through the light winds, heat and sudden squalls of the doldrums.
The French sailors are showing themselves to be more conservative and are drifting further to the west than Thomson. They will all be studying the weather models and attempting to work out how far west they should push. Boss is now far enough ahead that it could be a full 4 hours up the track and the light winds are currently spreading out north.
As Alex says himself the boat that gets out first will get the jump on the rest of the fleet. On the exit of the ITCZ the boats will initially be heading upwind. The worst point of sail for these modern IMOCA 60’s. Then they will be freed as the wind goes anti clock wise and the speeds will begin to rise again and the temperature begins to drop.
Alex mentioned the other day that he had some trouble with his engine and “somehow filled it up with water”. As an ex-mechanic and someone who has experienced Marine Engine trouble this year I feared that this may bring an early curtain down on his race. However, he reports in his latest vlog that all is ok with the engine after an oil change and that he would “have to look after my engine”.
The next 24 hours will be make or break for many campaigns. Keep tuned to the tracker.
More about the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone