They will be crossing the line separating the two hemisphere late in the night. Francis Joyon and his crew of five have slowed down in the Doldrums, but are already making their way out. The time to get to the Equator will therefore be more or less five days. Or in other words fifteen hours or so better than the current record time for this stretch.

We’re still ahead? About 200 miles? That’s good. The lads will be pleased.” On the phone this lunchtime, Francis Joyon’s first thoughts were for his crew, who have been hard at work since last night, when IDEC SPORT entered the Doldrums. The Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone has lived up to its reputation: alternating between calms and very strong squalls with winds varying horribly in direction and strength. This part of the voyage is always feared by sailors. The big, red trimaran wasn’t spared. An extremely violent squall for example forced them to furl the big gennaker quickly and make their way through this dark area without any headsail in a lightning storm and in torrential rain. “The crew were running around in every direction on the deck. It was surrealistic,” Francis Joyon told us.

Marcel Van Triest: “They are close to leaving the Doldrums”

Marcel_Van_TriestBISAfter extending their lead to 300 miles yesterday at 2000hrs, IDEC SPORT’s advance over the reference time has quite naturally been reduced to 200 miles this afternoon with speeds between 10 and 20 knots, as opposed to the thirty knot average recorded in the previous 48 hours. It’s all part of the game as you really gain miles in this zone. Let’s not forget that the virtual opponent (Banque Populaire V in 2011) is for the moment further north. So her speed will also fall as she gets down towards the Equator. In fact, the lead has started to extend again since 1600hrs this afternoon (Thursday).

We can also see an important reference point. This lunchtime, Francis Joyon’s men passed the point marking the fifth day at sea for the record pace with a lead of fifteen hours. In other words, they had been sailing just over 4 and a half days. A lead of half a day. That is what they have so far built up and will wish to work on. One thing is certain: this evening (Thursday), the Equator is a mere 200 miles ahead of their bows.

South Atlantic at around 0202hrs tonight?

So it looks more than ever likely they will smash the 5 days and 15 hours that it previously took to get to the Equator from Ushant. IDEC SPORT is probably already making her way out of the Doldrums. Contacted at 1540hrs, Marcel Van Triest, the onshore router for IDEC SPORT explains, “There remain what I have referred to as two lumps areas without any wind, but the trade winds are not far off now and they’ll be picking up the wind and accelerating again. I’m not looking at the crossing of the Equator itself, as it is what lies ahead that interests me. But I can give you an ETA of around 2 or 3 tomorrow morning. Remembering they left at 0202hrs, the question is whether they will make it to the Equator in under five days, but it could be exactly five days!”

We’ll be watching. What next? “For 600-800 miles, we are going to have to make the most of our angle following on from this passage through the Doldrums, which we’ve done furteh east than usual. Then, there will be a tricky transition zone before we find out whether we manage to hop onto a low pressure area coming out of Uruguay. That is what will decide whether we get a good time to the Cape of Good Hope or just a decent time.” More about that later. For the moment, it’s all about getting out of the Doldrums to make it to the other side of the world. More or less half a day ahead of the record.

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