Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and Team Brunel establish gap in doldrums

As most of the Volvo Ocean Race fleet found winds dying down in the doldrums of the Atlantic on Monday, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and Team Brunel built a first-leg lead with a fortunate bit of wind.

Emirati sailor Adil Khalid steers Azzam during the Volvo Ocean Race's first leg on Monday. Matt Knighton / Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing / Volvo Ocean Race / October 20, 2014
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The waters off the Atlantic, drifting in an expanse between the westernmost chunk of Africa and easternmost tip of South America, aren’t nicknamed the doldrums for nothing.

Wind on these seas is hard to come by. The sailing is, for the most part, slow.

Five of the seven boats that compose the Volvo Ocean Race fleet can attest to this right now. Two, however, have come upon a breezy patch of ocean.

As most of the fleet meandered toward the eastern tip of Brazil, where the yachts must round a marker before tacking back southeast toward South Africa, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's Azzam and the boat of Team Brunel establishd a gap with their rivals on Tuesday.

As of the 1.11pm UTC (5.11pm UAE) position report, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and Brunel were even – neck-and-neck, on each other’s heels, side by side, tied.

The closest boat behind those two, in third, China’s Dongfeng Race Team sat just over 30 miles adrift.

And scattered out over the course of another 42 miles were the boats of Team Alvimedica, Team SCA, Mapfre and Vestas Wind.

"Doldrums. What doldrums?" asked Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing onboard reporter Matt Knighton in his team blog.

“We should have already seen 5-10 knots of breeze and dropping. So far all day we’ve had around 15 knots and been making great speed straight south.”

By contrast, the Alvimedica onboard reporter, Amory Ross, could merely relay that, “The wind speed is barely registering at all. Somewhere between one and two knots.”

Dongfeng’s Yann Riou? “Let’s face it: we’re not having a very good time on Dongfeng.”

Mapfre’s Francisco Vignale? “Flying fish, seaweed, a bird every once in a while and ahead of us 400 miles with barely any wind.

“This is going to be long.”

Indeed, the yachts are just over a third of the way through the first leg to Cape Town from Alicante, Spain, some 4,000 miles and change still to traverse through the Atlantic.

That, though, should offer some hope to the rest of the boats. While Azzam and Team Brunel have clearly given themselves an early edge in this first leg of the round-the-world regatta, it's a nine-month race. They've been sailing for 10 days.

For now, the five boats bringing up the rear must wait for ADOR and Brunel to slow themselves and, in the meantime, forge along to the equator where winds should pick up.

“Two days, eight hours, thirty-four minutes, and ten seconds, nine seconds, eight seconds, six, five ... over the last few days the clock has gotten louder and louder as it counts down to October 23 at noon – the time when we cross the equator,” wrote SCA onboard reporter Corinna Halloran.

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