Text: Marco Nannini / Global Solo Challenge
Image: Open 50' Shipyard Brewing ©Ronnie Simpson
Fourteen skippers have departed between August 26 and October 28 to take part in the Global Solo Challenge, with two more setting sail this weekend (November 18). Among all those who have left, a thought goes to Juan Merediz, who had to retire, but whose fighting spirit continues to inspire us all.
Dafydd Hughes and Philippe Delamare are already sailing in the Indian Ocean having rounded the first of the three great capes, Cape of Good Hope. Louis Robein and Edouard de Keyser are in the South Atlantic facing light winds in the transitional phase between the Southeast trade winds and the low pressure systems of the great South.
At the time of writing this article, of the thirteen sailors at sea, 10 had already crossed the equator, the last of whom was Riccardo Tosetto on Obportus while Francois Gouin on Kawan 3 Unicancer and David Linger on Koloa Maoli were close to doing so. Alessandro Tosetti, delayed by a forced stop due to autopilot issues, now resolved, is sailing between the Canary Islands and the Cape Verde Islands.
Many skippers this week had to face the delicate and often exhausting crossing of the zone of equatorial calms. Fortunately, after this “challenge within the challenge”, each skipper was able to release some of the accumulated tension by celebrating the crossing of the equator, an important psychological milestone in this lengthy voyage.
The equatorial calms form in the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), a place that tests the patience and determination of every sailor and where the term “instability” takes on a whole new meaning. In French, this area is called “pot au noir”, a term with uncertain etymology. The black referred to could simply be that of the dark clouds that bring rain, poor visibility, sudden gusts of wind often followed by dead calm, and would be of Portuguese origin.
The English word to describe the same area is “Doldrums”, whose etymological meaning evokes melancholy, chaos, and depression and is often used today to describe a period of uncertainty and difficulty. After the 2008 financial crisis, Fed President Ben Bernanke spoke of a long period of navigating in the doldrums before being able to emerge from that difficult time for the world economy.
But what does it mean in practice for skippers?