|The teams are expected to head east for several days in close formation before weather conditions moderate and they can make the turn south in north easterly trade winds that will accelerate the fleet towards New Zealand.
Before returning to the southern hemisphere the crews will have to negotiate the notorious light winds of the Doldrums – an area of ocean either side of the equator densely populated with potent thunderstorms and capricious squalls as well as vast expanses of morale sapping flat calms.
On Leg 4 from Melbourne, Australia the Doldrums trapped the Volvo Ocean Race fleet for several days in drifting conditions. According to team AkzoNobel navigator Jules Salter (GBR) the return crossing could well evolve into a similar scenario.
“The weather routing has us crossing further east than on the way up,” Salter observed. “That could make things better or worse depending on what the scenario is when we get there.
“There could be some compression of the fleet again as the leaders get slowed first, giving the back markers a chance to close up. We will be watching closely how the weather develops over the first week to see where we might want to try to make our Doldrums crossing.”