Update day 12: Heading South !
I'm out! On Foresight Natural Energy I'm now barrelling southwards on an upwind course to Recife, the eastern corner of Brazil. The towering pillars of cumulus clouds and their troublesome squally winds have dropped over the horizon and now I have steady winds from the south, strong sunshine and high altitude cloud that won't affect the winds down here on the water. The reason that the Doldrums are do challenging is not only because they are a zone of calms created by the confrontation between the high pressure system in the North Atlantic (the Azores High) and the southern equivalent (the St Helena High) but also because it is a zone of squalls. These localized storms are created by powerful cloud cells that grow during the heat of the day, sucking air towards themselves before collapsing under their own weight at and end of the day, expelling their energy in violent rain showers and strong winds. This means that navigating through the doldrums one must watch the state of each cloud cell and determine whether it is sucking or blowing, helping or harming your progression. Yesterday afternoon I caught one of these showers and ran around the cockpit with body wash and dish soap to wash myself and all my clothes that I had used so far. I washed, cooled off and gloriously drank my fill of clean fresh water before the cloud passed on and we continued on our seperate ways. This then happened again but with an unfavourabe wind shift so I furled the downwind gennaker and sailed upwind towards the south until the wind shifted and I could change back to sailing downwind. Then another cloud came through, anther shift, another sail change and I waited again to change back but the wind stayed from the south and I was free from the Doldrums! Now it is a drag race down the Brazilian coast and while I'm happy to have caught up with Cali on La Mie Caline, I am now in a pack of newer boats that are more optimized for reaching than I am. If naval architecture has its way I should lose my grip on them again but I'll do my best. Sun hat on, headphones on, smile broad and a hand always on the sheets to make sure I wring all I can from this old girl.
A picture taken on the boat before the start by © Jean-Louis Carli pour DDPI/ Vendée Globe